The president of the Pasco Association of Educators (PAE) claims reopening schools for in-person learning is an example of “white supremacy,” and compares listening to concerned parents to following rioters breaking into the U.S. Capitol. He even says concern over student suicide is an example of “white privilege.”
Scott Wilson, PAE president, made a series of unhinged, controversial remarks during a Pasco School Board meeting this week.
The statements come as the union pushes for total remote learning for elementary schools, even with near-consensus from the medical community that it is safe to reopen schools with mitigation policies in place. The petition the union promotes baselessly calls in-person learning “unsafe and unsustainable.”
Reopening schools is “white supremacy” and seditious
Wilson’s comments were prepared, and he read them during the public commentary period of the school board meeting. He started by comparing the board’s decision to reopen schools to rallygoers in D.C. who saw rioters laying siege to the nation’s Capitol.
“There are decisions to be made. You stand on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol as people break down barriers and head to the doors. Do you follow?” Wilson asked rhetorically. “You stand at the governor’s mansion. The crowd breaks down barriers to enter the grounds. Do you follow? Or do you choose a different way? We must not ignore the culture of white supremacy and white privilege.”
He connects reopening schools to pushes to re-open everything.
There is, of course, no reasonable comparison between the riot at the Capitol and safely reopening schools. To compare them suggests Wilson is either unclear about what reopening schools means (it’s not an act of sedition or treason), or he watches too much CNN.
But he wasn’t done with absurd comparisons.
Reopening schools is white privilege
The union president argues reopening schools would be an affront to equity.
While Wilson doesn’t explicitly explain the equity argument, he makes reference to some students living in multi-generational homes. The concern is that a student may contract COVID at school, bring it back home, and transmit it to an elderly relative who is at a higher risk of death due to complications from the virus.
“We speak of equity, we speak of care of all students, yet we listen and attend to voices saying ‘Reopen everything, I’m free to breathe,’ supporting white privilege,” Wilson said before comparing his fight to keep schools closed to fighting for civil rights for Black Americans.
It may be news to Wilson, but not everyone pushing to reopen schools is part of a right-wing movement to open society as if the coronavirus doesn’t exist. It’s a push by parents who understand the negative effects keeping a child isolated from his or her peers, not to mention the academic issues of students falling behind.
And how about this for an equity issue: Low-income parents, who tend to represent communities of color, may have a harder time affording child care for their students. Not everyone who is a person of color lives in multi-generational homes, despite what Wilson may imply.
But most shocking was his callous comments about parents concerned over the mental health of their children.
Concern over student suicide is ‘white privilege’
Wilson lost his child to suicide, a pain no parent should live with. But his experience does not lend compassion to parents concerned with the well-being of their children.
“[Parents] complain their children are suicidal without school or sports,” Wilson explains. “As a father, daily surviving the suicide of my son, I find these statements ignorant and another expression of white privilege.”
With all due respect to Wilson, it seems troublesome to dismiss concerns of parents worried about suicide or the mental health of their children when he went through such a tragic event himself. Mental health professionals have been sounding the alarms for months on this very topic.
Education Week took a look at the data in November 2020. It’s alarming.
From this March through October , the share of mental health-related hospital emergency department visits rose 24 percent for children ages 5 to 11 and 31 percent among adolescents ages 12 to 17, when compared to the same period in 2019, the CDC reported based on a federal health surveillance program. While the CDC does not record whether a patient reported a mental health emergency as a result of a disaster, all of the mental health emergencies included stress, anxiety, acute posttraumatic stress disorder, or panic.
It noted that “the share of mental health visits for every 100,000 pediatric hospital emergency visits each week rose steadily beginning about three months into the pandemic.”
Relax on the absurd commentary, please
It’s easier to win arguments with this kind of absurd rhetoric. I get it. But this is so over-the-top, it should bring shame to the entire union.
Framing this discussion around public health concerns is appropriate. But it’s a losing argument. The data is clear and consistent that it is safe to reopen schools, while following strict health guidelines. Perhaps that’s why, rather than argue the safety side of reopening, the conversation devolves into this utter garbage.
Throwing around progressive buzz words may establish Wilson’s bona fides as a woke social justice warrior. But it shouldn’t win arguments. If you want to argue why in your district schools should remain closed, have at it. This, however, is an insane argument.
Hoping to reopen schools to help educate your kid — and bring back some semblance of normalcy — doesn’t make you a white supremacist, nor is it an expression of seditious intent. Expressing concern over your child’s mental well-being isn’t an example of white privilege. It shows you care about kids. Wilson would be better served to care a bit more about the children he teaches, rather than the teachers he hopes to keep home from work.
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