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.'
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.
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 ti... (Read more)
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