The Erasure of Black Students in the Digital Divide

Black Americans know all too well that social change in America doesn’t come as fast as the injustices we endure. Black teachers have always been on the frontlines for children; from Brown vs Board of Education, to teacher sit-ins and even recently through teacher protests. 

Even in using our voices to speak out against the racial injustices in public education, American educational leaders are still forcing Black teachers back into face to face learning during the pandemic despite the fact that Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by the virus.  

The digital divide is now a formula public schools are using to erase Black students and teachers in the digital divide! 

Not only are there heightened concerns from Black teachers about being at risk in overcrowded, under resourced schools, but there are also concerns for students. It is not overlooked by Black teachers the impact of this change in traditional learning settings for school reopening and the impact on Black students; many were already struggling before the pandemic. 

On top of this, Black teachers who have been uplifting the message that “Black lives matter” in public schools and embracing their students of all ethnicities who believe Black lives should be valued are being punished, pushed out, and silenced. 

Black educators are saying these injustices must be improved in order for us to offer a free, fair, and equitable education for Black students. However, we cannot do this if Black students are disconnected and logged out due to the digital divide. 

But not everyone even knows what the digital divide is and that it’s impacting them! 

I have had people ask me what exactly is the digital divide. 

The digital divide is a direct reflection of the access gap to digital learning resources. 15 million families in the United States are still without consistent internet access and devices for learning. Many of these are Black families in lower income communities and Title I schools across the Nation. 

Instead of school districts putting the money in student services and family engagement to lessen the blow of the digital divide, they are forcing Black teachers and students to come back to school for face to face learning. 

Here’s what may help decrease the digital divide for Black students who are in virtual, hybrid, or face to face learning models: 

1. Reducing class sizes: Reduce the number of students per class by more than ½, no more than 10-12 students in a class. 

2. Being creative with scheduling: Consider moving grades 7-12 to virtual learning 3 days out of the week until social norms are gradually put back into place.

3. Cutting areas in school budgets such as SROs to student support areas: Reducing the number of SROs in schools and using those funds for more teachers and staff to lesson class sizes is needed. 

4. Implementing culturally inclusive curriculum in public schools. Most Black students aren’t connecting to curriculums currently being used in public schools.

I’ve been preaching the gospel about inclusion, diversity, and improving the teacher pipeline for Black students for quite some time.The lack of cultural inclusiveness in the public school’s curriculum and lack of diversity among staffing negatively impacts the  success of Black students. If we are going to put a stop to Black students falling further behind in the digital divide, we must take the step I have outlined above. 

I want us to correct this by holding state and local superintendents accountable for ensuring their schools can prove one to one learning that includes access and devices, diversify their staff and teachers while also implementing culturally inclusive curriculum through mandatory courses such as African American and Latino studies i.e. African American Literature, African American History and Latino/Hispanic History courses.   We know what to do; we simply need school leaders to help make this happen.


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