The EdLanta Student Coalition members have been hard at work researching and monitoring severe health conditions of students as schools have reopened for face to face learning.
Overall, at least 244 children have died of COVID-19, according to the CDC. Latino and Black children currently represent approximately 65% of these deaths, according to CDC data.
This is why I support students’ advocacy for equity work in Atlanta to include environmental justice issues. Environment justice work means ensuring students with severe health conditions are protected in our schools as we continue to navigate through COVID-19.
In September, EdLanta discussed additional actions that board of education members can take to help ensure students and staff are better protected during face to face learning to help increase awareness of our EdLanta Student Coalition call to action to mandate IHPs to be audited annually.
Equity must include the Atlanta Board of Education mandating an annual audit of Individualized Health Plans.
Mandating IHPs to be audited each year allows educators working with children in and out of schools to ensure that precautions to protect children, especially those with severe health conditions, are at the standard they need to be. There are three areas that educators working with children in face to face learning environments should be familiar with in order to adequately protect the majority population served in Atlanta Public Schools.
Educators must know which students have severe heart conditions, respiratory illnesses such as Asthma and liver conditions that can gravely impact the health of school aged children battling these conditions while in face to face learning environments.
7 Facts About Asthma Parents and Teachers Need To Know:
- In 2018, 2.7 million non-Hispanic Blacks reported they currently have asthma.
- Non-Hispanic African Americans were 40 percent more likely to have asthma than non-Hispanic whites, in 2018.
- In 2019, non-Hispanic Blacks were almost three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than the non-Hispanic white population.
- In 2019, non-Hispanic Black children had a death rate eight times that of non-Hispanic white children.
- Non-Hispanic Black children were 5 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma, as compared to non-Hispanic white children, in 2017.
- While all of the causes of asthma remain unclear, children exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke exposure are at increased risk for acute lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis.
- Children living below or near the poverty level are more likely to have high levels of blood cotinine, a breakdown product of nicotine, than children living in higher income families.
Additionally, over the first four months of this school year, the EdLanta Student Coalition and I have polled Atlanta residents asking them about acute health conditions of our children that are more susceptible to illnesses that can be gravely impacted by exposure to COVID-19.
One of these conditions is MIS-C. Most educators from the poll couldn’t tell us what an IHP is let alone MIS-C. It’s critically important for school districts like Atlanta Public Schools to be more proactive about health issues outside of mask mandates.
Children of color are more likely to experience a severe COVID-related inflammatory illness called MIS-C. According to the CDC about 2,060 children in America have been diagnosed with MIS-C. For a district serving 80% of Black children, it’s important for school and district training to include data on MIS-C.
Equity work in Atlanta must include this board taking the first step of accountability by ensuring that the district employees are aware of the severe health conditions of every child they have in their classrooms.
It’s a fact that communities of color are more likely to experience barriers to high-quality health care and testing, or to face cultural or language challenges in having access to this health care.
Atlanta should be the leading district that begins to further equity work by creating partnerships for every school in communities disenfranchised with health resources to have a health center within the school. Imagine families being able to get healthcare services needed for immunizations, mental health, and other health resources right at the school.
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.