2020 has left deep battle scars for public educators, students, and families that we’re still healing from in the new year.
Black students across the nation have experienced grief from the loss of those in their schools, families and communities. Due to standardized testing regulations, Georgia students will have to return to school to test in person.
As a special education teacher, I do fear for Black students in exceptional learning programs. The collaborative and co taught classes are over crowded. This is due to overpopulated programs with disproportionate numbers of Black students.
Last year, Aziya Terry, a former student, passed away as well Jennifer Favors, a classmate and fellow educator in Atlanta, both from heart related illnesses.
Jennifer literally fell out while working in her school during the pandemic. It really challenged me to think about the impact public schools have on those Black students and educators with pre existing health conditions including heart related illnesses and asthma.
The Heart Association published an article , that came out a shortly after Aziya passed, discussing the impact of COVID-19 on Black females with heart related issues.
This is why saying the names of Black students and educators impacted by heart related illnesses in the pandemic is urgently important to the conversation of reopening schools.
47% of Black Americans are impacted by heart related illnesses. This is a growing number especially with complications of COVID-19.
As school districts in Georgia and the nation are battling about returning to in-person learning, I’m urging them to count up the cost.
If we’re going to go beyond simply saying and chanting, “Black Lives Matter” in schools, then we need local and state school boards to reopen schools safely, effectively, and innovatively.
My call to action to Georgia school districts is to consider Black students and the health issues their community faces when reopening school buildings during the pandemic.
Districts should be mandating Individualized Health Plans of all students be updated and sanitized, classroom size reduction, mandatory masks, and testing be implemented to ensure they are protected.
Black students and educators who have heart related illnesses are more at risk of fatality due to the pandemic; so we MUST reopen schools safely and utilize various options of education students.
Heart attacks and heart failure in Black children and adults has dramatically increased during the pandemic.
Healthline highlights not only concerns from doctors, but also what can be done to prevent this during the pandemic. Most importantly, it discusses the symptoms.
Additionally, parents can assist schools with ensuring the school environment, school lunch program and health/wellness program follows the preventative measures of a child with a critical/chronic health condition IHP.
Although asthma is a common respiratory disease many Black and brown students have, it’s connected to the racial disparities of healthcare in our schools and communities.
African Americans were almost three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than the white population.
No longer can asthma or heart conditions of Black students be overlooked or not taken seriously by public schools.
I’ve recently asked Black parents and educators, in various settings, if they knew what about IHPs for students in schools. No one in parent leader groups I spoke with, to educational groups I’m connected to, or even educational advocates knew about this.
The IHP provides support and strategies for schools with children (or educators) with severe health conditions.
This is extremely important during this pandemic for all parents to have their child’s physician provide the information needed for the school’s IHP.
The school should then use this information to inform the case manager and staff supporting the child so that they are able to assist in following guidelines needed to ensure the child(ren) with IHPs are protected.
I’m advocating for more school leaders in Georgia to do what 7 Pillars Career Academy Leader, Christina Guillen, did. She made a point to ensure all students with IHPs were updated.
The school also focused on health and wellness daily through its curriculum and innovative cooking courses.
Additionally, the students are even engaged with gardening and community food drives the school provides.
In honor of our 7 Pillars student, Aziya, who passed from a heart related illness last year, the school celebrates National Wear Red Day in her honor.
February 7 is National Wear Red Day to help raise awareness about heart disease. National Wear Red Day is a critically important day for public schools serving Black students to bring awareness.
Let’s encourage public school leaders and educators to be engaged, empower and educate Black students on healthy eating, living and supporting themselves with stress management.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.