As schools begin reopening across the country, in Chicago, Angela Valentine says her 12-year-old son, Dorian, will not be returning. Instead, he will be home-schooled, reports NBC News.
“I just began to see some telltale signs that things weren’t working to our advantage,” she said. “And started to see some discrepancies, some inequities.”
Some of those discrepancies involved her son’s academics. Valentine said that as Dorian’s grades slipped last year, before the coronavirus pandemic closed classrooms, his school failed to give him adequate support and solutions for subjects in which he was weak. Her son was one of only a few Black boys in his class, and he said his social interactions changed over time. Other students suddenly stopped playing with him. He told her that he spends recess on the swings by himself.
“We later found out that he was called the N-word,” Valentine said.
Bernita Bradley, an education advocate, said she has heard similar stories from parents in her hometown, Detroit.
When Detroit Public Schools shut down in the early stages of the pandemic, she noticed Black students’ being left behind and their parents’ being ignored by school administrators. Students, she said, did not have adequate resources, such as laptops and Wi-Fi, while students in affluent neighborhoods already had needed resources. Superintendant Nikolai Vitti said last year that despite an effort to distribute 50,000 laptops and free Internet service to students, the district experienced chronic absenteeism last fall. About 5 percent of the district’s students had broken laptops or did not have Wi-Fi connectivity at home. That led to chronic absenteeism — about 30 percent of students did not attend online classes.
“Families were crying out for help,” she said. “All parents kept getting was ‘Oh, this is a pandemic and be gracious and give us time.’ Not that it was perfect for anybody — it was a whole pandemic — but families just started tapping out. They were like, ‘If you won’t help me, I’ll do this myself.’”
And they did just that. Bradley became the point of contact for Black parents interested in home schooling. She received a $25,000 education grant from VELVA, which funds people and programs that are meeting students’ and families’ educational needs. She then launched Engaged Detroit, a home-school co-op that assists Black parents with educational resources.
Bradley also began home-schooling her 11th grade daughter, who was so frustrated with the local school system that she considered dropping out and getting her high school equivalency diploma.
“I was like, ‘No, you won’t,’” Bradley said. “‘You won’t drop out because other people are not accommodating you the right way.’”
Her daughter has graduated from high school and is attending Wayne State University.
Nationwide, Black parents are reporting their challenging experiences with their kids in public, private and charter schools, prompting many to reconsider their educational options. Data show that, facing racism at school, bias from some teachers and curriculums that parents deem inadequate, more Black families than ever are choosing to home-school their children. After a year of virtual or hybrid learning and the unknowns of a new school year during the pandemic, more parents see that route as the best option.
Brian Ray, a doctor of science education who founded the National Home Education Research Institute, said that over the past 15 years more Black parents have decided to home-school. In fact, according to an analysis by the organization in 2015, Black children made up just 1 percent of home-schoolers across the country in the late 1990s. By 2010, the proportion of Black families home-schooling their children nearly doubled, to 1.9 percent. According to a survey by the Census Bureau, 3.3 percent of Black families were home-schooling their children in spring 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, but the figure jumped to 16.1 percent of Black children in the fall of 2020.