Parents and students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) held a Zoom blackout and protest Monday, against LA public schools not reopening.
Dozens of parents and student joined a protest outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles against both the LAUSD and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the teachers labor union. Both the protesters and those participating in the blackout demanded that schools reopen for in-class learning due to remote learning failing to properly educate students and disadvantaging poorer students.
“At first it was kind of great because we didn’t have to go out at all and just do everything from home,” explained “Cicily,” a Los Angeles student in an interview with the Globe, granted with permission from her parents. “But then we all started noticing that it wasn’t really sticking as much. And then some people’s wi-fi cut out. And, you know, it’s super obvious that people are just looking at their phones most of the time. It’s not working for us, no matter what you hear.”
“And I’m just a kid here, but I think LA failed us, and I think the teachers are failing us for putting themselves over everyone else. I don’t want my voice to be, like, the voice of everyone else in my grade or something, but we all feel this way. We’re arguing with them more about this point too. My sister’s teacher cut off early without taking any more questions because a lot of students kept asking why she wanted a vaccine over all of our futures. It’s not pretty.”
The UTLA has been insistent on receiving COVID-19 vaccines before returning to the classroom. In a vote last week, UTLA teaches voted 93% to 7% to not return to the classroom before LA County reaches the red tier, along with all teachers and staff either getting or being offered vaccines, and proper safety conditions in LA schools being met. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, who previously tried to bring early vaccines to teachers through opening up vaccines sites in schools, has fully sided with the UTLA, noting recently that classroom instruction will not return until all teachers and staff are vaccinated.
Zoom blackouts, a protest in LA over school re-openings
But this isn’t soon enough for many parents. While many more school activities, such as school sports like football, began to open up more last week, the lack of in-classroom instruction led directly to the blackout and protests on Monday.
“They won’t want to say how many are doing it, and there will be some doing it just to get out of school, but it was significant on Monday,” a LAUSD high school teacher who wished to remain anonymous told the Globe. “A few parents emailed me beforehand what they were going to do, and sure enough, roll call was missing a lot more than usual. I can’t give the exact number, but it was more absences than a regular flu season.”
“My colleagues gave the same. Three here. Two there. Per class it’s not that much, but when you add it up it’s really a significant number of students.”
“Oh, and that 93% in favor. The real question should have been how many of us would have come back if it wasn’t for the UTLA stopping us. The UTLA itself said 31% are willing to go back anyway, but even that number is skewed. Look, rates are down and school districts open elsewhere in the country aren’t seeing many teachers get COVID. For many of us, as long as we still use PPE and hand washing and everything like that, we want to go back. We’ve wanted to go back since last year. But we can’t. The UTLA and the LAUSD are stopping us.”
Protesters in Los Angeles agreed, with many wanting their children to go back.
“The vast majority of Californian parents don’t want remote learning,” explained Didi Taylor, a parent with children in the LAUSD who was at the protest on Monday. “I saw this flyer asking for a blackout last week, and I asked my children if they were ok with that. They’ve hated remote learning more than the parents, so they said yes. And then we went out [to the protest].”
The online flyers distributed last week read “Enough is enough! We can no longer sit by and wait for UTLA to come up with more excuses to keep our schools closed.” They proved to be a rallying cry for many as shown by the protest on Monday.
“The UTLA is just holding out for vaccines, not even caring that they’re hurting our kids futures,” added Taylor. “Watch, there is going to be a giant push for private and charter schools because of this in the next few years. We won’t forget their selfishness.”
In-person instruction for grades K-6 cannot resume in LA County until the COVID-19 case average hits 25 per 100,000 residents, with in-class grades 7-12 rates needed 7 per 100,000 residents. While the first group of grades has met the threshold with a current case average of 20 per 100,000 residents, the teacher vaccination requirement will likely hold back in-person classes until the spring.