An Oakland teacher has blasted ‘rich white parents’ who worry that distance learning is affecting their children’s mental health, telling them to ‘take a seat’ and that their worries are feeding kids’ ‘sense of entitlement.’
Bethany Meyer, a special education teacher at Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and secretary of the local teachers’ union, the Oakland Education Association (OEA), told California parents eager to get their children back to school that they were causing their children anxiety.
‘All the rich white parents suddenly concerned about mental health can take a seat,’ she wrote on Twitter on February 17. ‘Most of them are causing their kids’ anxiety by pressuring them … and feeding into their sense of entitlement. Sorry/not sorry.’
Her tweet comes amid the ongoing storm around schools reopening as parents and lawmakers are pushing for schools to reopen, while teachers and teachers’ unions are putting up roadblocks, claiming concern about the risks of contracting COVID-19 by returning to the classroom.
It also comes just a week after another Bay Area school district saw all of its members resign after they were caught on a hot microphone during a meeting saying parents wanted schools to re-open just for teachers to ‘babysit’ their kids so parents could go back to ‘smoking pot.’
An Oakland teacher has blasted ‘rich white parents’ complaining that distance learning amid the pandemic has impacted their children’s mental health and accused them of ‘causing their kids’ anxiety by pressuring them to complete asynchronous work’. Bethany Meyer’s tweet, pictured
Meyer (pictured), a special education teacher at Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and secretary of teachers’ union the Oakland Education Association (OEA), told California parents eager to get their children back to school to ‘take a seat’ in a social media post last week
In Oakland, Meyer’s tweet sparked an outcry, with some parents accusing the teacher, who is white, of trying to speak for black parents and assuming it is only ‘rich white parents’ who are concerned about getting their children back in school.
Autumn McDonald, a black mother of a kindergartner and third grader in the district, said she wants her children to return to the classroom because at-home learning has caused ‘stress for us and stress for them’ as she and her husband try to juggle their work and their kids’ education.
‘I do personally want my kids back in school,’ McDonald told SFGate. ‘I need my kids to be back in school. My husband and I are working parents. The level to which our kids not being in school has caused stress for us and stress for them is beyond the pale,’ she said.
Another parent slammed Meyer for bringing ‘the angle of race and social class’ into the matter rather than ‘focusing on… getting our kids back in school.’
Nikki Cowger, who has a third grader in special education and a fourth grader in the district, said union allies had attacked her online and accused her of not considering ‘the needs of brown/black families who ‘predominantly want to stay home”. Cowger’s race wasn’t clear.
Meanwhile, a group of Oakland parents said the teachers’ union should stop treating parents of color as all the same.
‘I hope @OaklandEA has learned their lesson to stop speaking for parents of color, particularly black parents,” the OUSD Parents for Transparency & Safe Reopening tweeted. ‘They are not a monolith (no group of parents is), and their interests aren’t necessarily aligned with those of the union,’ they tweeted Tuesday.
Parents agreed: ‘Many Latino parents can’t stay home with their kids to help with distance learning. They need schools to open!’
The OUSD is one of the largest districts in the Bay Area spanning 86 schools and 50,000 students.
Its student population is 42 percent Hispanic, 23 percent black, 9 percent Asian and 17 percent white, according to recent figures compiled by kidsdata.org, a program of the Lucile Packard Foundation.
One parent said Meyer’s comments felt like being ‘punched in the gut’ while she and other families are at ‘breaking point’.
‘When I saw her tweet I felt like I was punched in the gut,’ Eileen Carney, who has a kindergartner and fourth grader in the Oakland Unified School District, told SFGate.
‘This has been such a difficult time for my family. This hurts me on a deep and personal level frankly. We’re all at a breaking point right now and I think we need to be unified. These strange bullying tactics seem misplaced and frankly offensive.’
While Meyer hit out at the ‘rich’ parents, the teacher earned a total compensation package of $93,942.38 in 2019, according to a public salary database.
Her tweet comes amid the ongoing storm around schools reopening as parents and lawmakers are pushing for schools to reopen, while teachers and teachers’ unions are concerned about the risks of contracting COVID-19 by returning to the classroom
This is markedly higher than the median income for an entire household in Oakland of $73,692 that year, according to US Census statistics.
Meyer has since apologized and deleted the tweet and her Twitter account is now set to private.
The OEA, the union, issued a statement urging for ‘respect and empathy’ in the community and acknowledging the ‘the very real stresses felt by students, parents and teachers during this time’.
‘I also want to acknowledge the very real stresses felt by students, parents and teachers during this time. OEA has consistently fought to increase mental health support for our students, and will continue to do so,’ Keith Brown, the union president told SFGate.
‘As we move forward, I am feeling hopeful that lower community spread, multi-tiered safety measures and vaccinations will continue to bring us closer to a safe return to in-person instruction.
‘In order to get there together, everyone in our OUSD community will need to treat each other with respect and empathy as we move forward.’
The school district also issued a statement saying Meyer’s comments had left families feeling ‘disrespected’.
‘We saw one Tweet from a staff member that left many families feeling disrespected and insulted,’ it said.
OUSD Parents for Transparency & Safe Reopening, a group of OUSD parents who are calling for the reopening of the district’s elementary schools, tweeted that the teachers’ union should stop treating parents of color as a ‘monolith’
‘It has been shared numerous times by upset families. The staff member has since apologized for the Tweet…’
The district added that ‘personal insults or attacks… do not help in this situation or any other, and only serve to inflame tensions.’
OUSD was originally planning to reopen schools for in-person learning on January 25 – 10 months after they shuttered in March.
However with COVID-19 cases reaching record high levels in January, the plan was put on hold.
At the time OUSD spokesperson John Sasaki said: ‘Based on what was going on in the community and, really across the nation, we could not afford to open on the 25th. We really want to get or students back into as normal an education model as soon as possible.’
The district said the aim was to reopen in the next few months with Sasaki now saying schools will open ‘in one form or another this spring.’
California Governor Gavin Newsom is pushing for the state’s schools to reopen and announced Friday that the state will now put aside 10 percent of shots to inoculate teachers and school staff.
Newsom doubled down on his stance in an interview with ABC News Sunday where he called for schools to reopen ‘right away’ and said teachers should be a priority in the vaccine rollout.
‘At the end of the day, we can do this now as we administer more doses. Yes, prioritizing our teachers, more vaccines in people’s arms,’ he said.
Governor Newsom said he believes it is ‘optimal’ but not essential for teachers to be vaccinated before they can return to in-person learning
Millions of schoolchildren nationwide haven’t set foot in a classroom since last March and research has shown that grades and mental health is suffering, particularly among already vulnerable children.
An October article by the American Psychological Association cited concerns about ‘how kids will cope psychologically with the ongoing loss of access to the friends, teachers, and routines associated with going to a physical campus’.
Howard University professor and psychologist Celeste Malone warned that children of color and less well-off backgrounds are at the greatest risk of facing mental health challenges by missing out on classroom learning.
‘Communities of color typically have reduced access to mental health providers, but these kids need support more than ever right now,’ she said.
‘They are more likely to have parents who are essential workers and experiences of grief and loss because of COVID, plus they are seeing persistent police brutality and unrest.’
Meanwhile, there is no official death toll for teachers during the pandemic but the American Federation of Teachers, one of the biggest unions, said it knows of around 530 school staffers who died from COVID-19 last year.
The California Teachers Association has said it wants all school staff to be vaccinated before reopening schools – something that lawmakers and the nation’s top doctors say is not practical.
California’s Newsom has said believes it is ‘optimal’ but not essential for teachers to be vaccinated before they can return to in-person learning.
This matches the guidance of the CDC which said last month the US does not need to wait for teachers to be vaccinated before schools can reopen, saying there is little evidence of the virus spreading in schools.
Last week, Dr Anthony Fauci also waded in to say it is ‘non-workable’ to wait until all teachers are vaccinated to get children back to school.
President Biden has pledged to have most schools open within his first 100 days in office.
Meanwhile, California recorded another 4,665 cases Monday and 233 deaths.
Alameda County, where Oakland is based, is still in the most severe purple tier of reopening meaning the virus is ‘widespread’. It has a positivity rate of 3.6 percent.
In California, COVID-19 cases have now topped 3.4 million and more than 49,000 have died.