Dear Superintendent David Law and Anoka-Hennepin School Board:

On July 31, 2020, it was announced that Anoka-Hennepin Schools would operate under a hybrid model of learning in which schools would reopen at 50% capacity. This model was determined by a bi-weekly case rate (over 14 days) of COVID-19 by county of residence. Because Anoka-Hennepin spans across two counties, Anoka-Hennepin must follow the numbers of the county with the highest biweekly case rate, Hennepin County.  

The Anoka-Hennepin Teachers of Color Coalition is a self-organized collective of teachers of color across Anoka-Hennepin Schools.  We understand the large span of the communities Anoka-Hennepin serves.  Yet, we also know that since the COVID-19 pandemic, the communities we represent and love have been deeply and disproportionately affected. We assert that the planning around and decision to use the hybrid learning model upholds systemic racism and does not align with Anoka-Hennepin’s Equity Achievement Plan. On behalf of the Anoka-Hennepin Teachers of Color Coalition, we are asking you to consider these concerns as Anoka-Hennepin Schools plan to reopen in a hybrid model.

Concern 1: While Anoka-Hennepin Schools reopening plans are based on county numbers, there is not enough consideration for the way COVID-19 is impacting our hardest hit cities and communities.

Concern 2: Communities of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

  • According to the CDC, Latinx, Indigenous and Black communities are experiencing higher hospitalization rates than their white counterparts. 
  • Latinx children are 8 times as likely as white children to be hospitalized, while Black children are 5 times as likely.
  • There is some evidence that COVID-19 is impacting South East Asian American communities because they have disproportionately higher rates of underlying health conditions than other Asian Americans. 
  • In Minnesota, people of color are dying of COVID-19 at disproportionately higher rates than their white counterparts. 
    • “People of color makeup 63% of the deaths among adults under age 64, though they are just 16% of that population. But even among older residents, people of color account for 15% of the deaths, triple their share of the population.”
  • Because AH serves 63% white students and employs over 96% white licenced teachers, district leadership appears to be appealing to the majority white constituent base of Anoka-Hennepin who may not have witnessed the devastating impacts of COVID-19 due to systemic inequities.

Concern 3: Equity is not the same as choice.

  • While any student in Anoka-Hennepin can opt into distance learning, a family’s socio-economic and work situation impacts whether or not a family is able to choose distance learning.
  • It is clear that distance learning is the choice that prevents infections, but it is a choice that families with resources, access to tutors, childcare, and work flexibility can accomplish.
  • For parents of students who are also essential workers, hybrid is the only option. This option forces more unwanted exposure to COVID-19.
  • Families seeking to work from home will likely have less support, less understanding, and less flexibility from employers that are aware that in-person learning is an option in their child’s school.

Concern 4: Teachers of Color do not feel safe and protected as they return to work.

  • The A-H Hybrid model, an opening at 50% capacity, still warrants large amounts of exposure between staff and students. There are not enough safety measures to limit the spread of possible infection and we ask the district to consider additional recommendations outlined by the state to minimize exposure to the greatest extent possible. 
  • Anoka-Hennepin’s equity statement values a diverse workforce; there are plans in place to recruit and retain teachers of color (per Priority Domain 1: Climate, goal 2). However, there is no equity when the health and safety concerns of BIPOC are not addressed.
  • Please refer to Concern #2 (Communities of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 pandemic.) BIPOC are at a higher risk for contracting a more severe strain. 
  • Understand that early career and incoming new teachers of color are also vulnerable because they do not have the same level of agency, protection and accrued sick days as Tier 4 teachers. 

Concern 5: We feel that the district has not engaged families of color and multilingual families on sufficient input in reopening plans. 

  • The Anoka-Hennepin Parent/Guardian Feedback Survey was only conducted in English. Because over 100 languages and dialects are spoken among Anoka-Hennepin families (see page 2), this survey is less accessible and limits the district in understanding the full educational needs of all Anoka-Hennepin students and families. 
  • Because of the way COVID-19 has impacted communities of color and that many of Anoka-Hennepin families reside in cities with high rates of COVID-19, it is crucial to ensure that we have sufficient input on a plan for reopening schools that ensures the highest standard of safety.

As teachers, we understand the profound disconnect this district has between their stated vision for equity and their inability to prioritize resources and support to carry it out. We are tired of having the language of equity used without true commitment to decentralize whiteness and its social, political, and economic hold in our schools, especially as Anoka-Hennepin plans for reopening.

As teachers who represent black and brown communities, we come from families and communities that are multiracial, multicultural, multilingual, and multigenerational. We name our identities and families as assets because of our persistent desire to resist, live, and create. Our elders, care-givers, and children are valuable and provide access to other forms of knowledge and resources that disrupt an educational system that traditionally renders us as inferior. It is our families that sustain us in our work as valued educators and mentors for all children and youth in Anoka-Hennepin.

The staff, students, and families in our Hennepin County schools cannot risk being the hybrid experiment that is anticipated to fail so that the entire district can transition to our safest option when it does. Doing so will come at the cost of the health of our communities of color. We need courageous leadership now. This requires using multiple metrics to guide a safe reopening using an equity lens that centers the cities and communities who are most impacted by Covid-19 with their voices heard in the process. 

According the A-H Equity Achievement Plan, “Educational equity is when educational policies, practices, interactions, and resources, are representative of, constructed by, and responsive to all students such that each individual has access to, can meaningfully participate and make progress in high quality learning experiences that empower them towards self- determination and reduces disparities in outcomes regardless of individual characteristics and cultural identities (GLEC, 2012).” When communities of color are disproportionately impacted by Covid 19, it is essential that you center their health and concerns to develop more creative and equitable solutions that provide educational access and meaningful participation and do not risk the lives and well-being of our beloved students, families, and employees. 

Anoka-Hennepin Teachers of Color Coalition

Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota

The Anoka-Hennepin Teachers of Color Coalition (AHTOCC) is a collective of teachers/members of color dedicated to their own personal and collective empowerment through advocacy, mentorship, and partnership.

17 thoughts on “An Open Letter from Anoka-Hennepin Teachers of Color Coalition

  1. Please correct your statistic in the article. Latina is NOT a race. People can be black as well as latina. You should have said Hispanic. The article that you link to that statistic represents Hispanic children, not Latina in general.

  2. With everything going on and all the stress of life, I think all teachers and students should just take the year off. Wait until we all can be vaccinated and this settles down for everyone before even attempting to get back in the classrooms.

    • So what are they looking for? All students stay home again? What are the essential parents supposed to do then? Many children who are at greater risk if COVID are also struggling with distance learning and not receiving the help from parents nor do they have resources to help them through the difficulties of distance learning. Continued distance learning will likely disproportionatly affect their education and future success. Parents have the option to opt out, if they’re concerned, let them opt out. How is it ok that the children of parents with essential jobs can send their kids every day to the schools for daycare but they shouldn’t be in the classroom? COVID only goes in the classrooms? That makes no sense.

    • So the kids just don’t learn? Parents are supposed to quit their jobs? There are kids out there who are at risk of abuse and neglect just by being home. There would be no teachers to report suspected abuses. Just let the kids suffer. Great plan.

  3. I am not a person of color but agree schools should not open yet numbers are to high and within a week Covid will spread endangering older care provider and teachers. SO PLEASE DO NOT OPEN YET IT IS TO SOON.

  4. So what are they looking for? All students stay home again? What are the essential parents supposed to do then? Many children who are at greater risk if COVID are also struggling with distance learning and not receiving the help from parents nor do they have resources to help them through the difficulties of distance learning. Continued distance learning will likely disproportionatly affect their education and future success. Parents have the option to opt out, if they’re concerned, let them opt out. How is it ok that the children of parents with essential jobs can send their kids every day to the schools for daycare but they shouldn’t be in the classroom? COVID only goes in the classrooms? That makes no sense.

  5. How about the schools that have more positive looking statistics. Should they not be equally treated from a positive perspective? Opening up to perhaps full time to all the time schooling? Anoka county from Colmbia Heights to East Bethel. Really? Not the best looking formula for deciding on who goes back to school.

    • I am kind of embarrassed for you guys. Teachers have always indicated, we feel the same about you, how important your profession is and how heroic your job is. Show us, display some of that heroism. Do your job. When will you consider it safe to go back, zero cases? Imagine if all of the stores you frequented closed until they felt “safe”, you’d have a fit. Get it together and finally do something for these families of color. How about not always portraying them as victims that you are there to rescue, but then don’t “feel safe” when it’s time do do it. We all have been led to believe that children are largely not impacted by this virus. Get in shape, boost your immune system, and get back to doing the work that we taxpayers are paying you to do.

  6. 3 white chicks in the headline picture. A white person probably wrote this and the people that run it now are probaly white people that actually pushed the people of color aside.

    Malcolm X has never spoken truer words than that of the white liberal being their worst enemy.

    • They are not White so it seems you are making a grave assumption based on skin color. The members of this group are among the most educated and thoughtful teachers I have ever met. Their goal was not to make requests or demands. Their goal was to give the decision makers all the information they need and to remind them about their commitment to equity for all.

  7. My child is a child of color and she wants her education at school. And she deserves that! Let the ones who want to return, return! Those who don’t can stay home!

  8. I feel bad I hadn’t thought about those students speaking other languages or for those with technology deficits. I, too, want distance learning because I am high risk and I would hate for my twins to get sick. I am really sad that they are missing all the fun of their Senior year though. Good luck.

  9. I live in Anoka county. My elementary school should follow the governors guidance of schools open if cases are less than 10/10 000. Anoka county meets this requirement. Not being offered a 100% at school program for my 1st grader who desperately needs full teacher interaction is already bending to the Hennipen in Anoka Hennipen schools too far imo.

  10. Every person commenting here has valid points from their perspectives being made. There is critical thought presented in each view. Thanks to what you have learned, these critical thoughts are possible.
    Some direct facts to consider:
    1. Epidemiologists are still learning about this disease. So, very learned people with critical thinking abilities are committed to due diligence in saving lives.
    2. There is no vaccine for this virus. A means to continuing lives of teachers and students they teach who are considered our future needs consideration first. This means that education will prevail for all parties committed to flattening the global pandemic curve in this country so more people can capably continue their lives to continue learning more.
    3. More educated people in more countries have thought their way through dealing with this global pandemic and personal economies At the same time. Perhaps the learned in this country can learn from lessons learned in other countries.
    Instead of experimenting with the lives of our collective future in this country and the educators who teach them, we need to protect educational lives now. In the long run this will be a most valued lesson for all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.