Biden urges states to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers

White teachers urged to use privilege responsibly in fight to keep Durham schools in remote learning

Ronda Bullock

In Durham, plans to reopen schools for in-person instruction continues to play out in dramatic fashion.

This week, Ronda Bullock, chair of education committee of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People took white, female educators to task for acting like “damsels in distress” and for reacting angrily to the Durham school board’s racially split vote to reopen schools for in-person instruction.

The board’s five Black members voted in favor of reopening schools for young children on March 15.  It’s two white members voted against the plan.

Like most school districts in North Carolina and across the nation, Durham’s teachers are majority white. Most students in the district are Black and Hispanic.

Bullock said she understood teachers’ frustration and anger, but felt some of the comments on social media crossed the line.

“What I witnessed in the aftermath of the vote … was white women educators fuming and unraveling through social media,” Bullock wrote in a Facebook post titled “Dear White Women Educators.”

Bullock urged white teachers to use their privilege responsibly. She said the teachers’ outrage could endanger Black school board members.

“You all have inherited a legacy of white racial violence, and our public conscience is set up to come to your defense,” Bullock wrote. “You need to realize the power of your public outrage, whether or not it’s justified, whether or not it’s rooted in reality.”

Bullock suspects district leaders and school board members received lots of negative email after the controversial vote.

“No, you are not solely responsible for those, but you are culpable for your part,” she said. “Your public outrage at our 5 POC [People of Color] board members is dangerous, and it needs to be checked before someone is hurt. It only takes one extremist reading your posts to feel justified in restoring your honor and safety through some targeted act of violence against our board members.”

Earlier, this year the school board voted to remain in remote learning for the remainder of the school year. Teachers don’t want to return to in-person instruction until educators and school staffs are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

They did not take the news well about reopening schools, Bullock said.

“People demanded the names of the board members, and many were ready to “vote them out,” Bullock wrote. “White teachers even lamented that the board members wanted them to die. Maybe in a race-neutral society, this would seem like righteous indignation, but we don’t live in a race-neutral society. This is America. Race is ever present.”

Teachers who responded on Bullock’s Facebook page received the message well. Many of them asked how they should have responded differently.

“I truly believe that just like when a child is reprimanded for a certain behavior it is important to support them in a replacement/alternate behavior,” one teacher responded.

In an interview with Policy Watch, Bullock said she’s not out to “vilify” white teachers, and that white teachers must figure out what they did wrong and how to respond differently next time.

“White educators need to sit with the discomfort of this letter and wrestle with how they can show up differently,” Bullock said. “It takes time be reflective and they have the capacity to come up with their own solutions as a community regarding how they can show up better next time.”

The school board and educators must keep students at the center of their decision-making, Bullock said.

“Some students are doing well in virtual learning and feel safest there,” she said. “Some students are not doing well (lots of mental health concerns here). Those who are doing well get to stay virtual and those who aren’t, will get the option to attend in person, safely.”

The State Board of Education will receive a report Wednesday on statewide school test results that shows students have struggled academically learning remotely.

The board’s vote to return to classrooms for in-person instruction was largely in response to Senate Bill 37, which would have required all North Carolina school districts to provide an option of in-person instruction.

The Senate’s Republican leadership was unable to garner enough votes Monday to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the school reopening bill, so it is no longer an issue.

The Durham school board will  meet this afternoon to discuss school reopening. The Durham Association of Educators wants the board to consider a return to in-person instruction on April 8, the date middle school students and high school students would return classrooms. The delay would give teachers and staff members more time to be vaccinated.

“Some of you may get angry,” Michelle Burton, president of the Durham Association wrote on the group’s Facebook page. “And that is okay. Leadership is hard and being in leadership one has to make tough decisions that not everyone will agree with.”

Frontline essential workers eligible for vaccination starting Wednesday, those with underlying medical conditions next in line March 24th

Gov. Roy Cooper

An increasing supply of COVID-19 vaccines in our state means that starting March 3rd thousands of essential workers will be able to roll-up their sleeves and get the protective shot.

This large group includes – firefighters, law enforcement, grocery store workers, migrant farmers, restaurant workers, postal workers and clergy to name a few.

Click here to learn more about who is considered a frontline essential worker.

Governor Roy Cooper said the state’s expedited timeline is due in to the federal government’s approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“It’s a real advantage that this is only one shot and more easily stored. It’s been shown to be very effective in preventing hospitalization and death due to COVID-19,” said Cooper.

North Carolina expects to receive 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine tomorrow.

“And we’ll be getting 215,000 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, bringing our state’s allocation to almost 300,000 first doses for this week,” said state Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen.

The state expects to see a lag in Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week as manufacturing ramps up. But the quantity of the one-shot vaccine should be steady by the end of March or early April.

That expectation is allowing North Carolina to plan for those in Group 4 with underlying medical conditions to start making vaccination appointments on March 24th.

State officials clarified at today’s press conference this group includes those with intellectual and developmental disabilities including Down Syndrome, and neurologic conditions, such as dementia.

Learn more about Group 4.

Next week on March 10, a mass-vaccination center will open in Greensboro. This site will operate seven days a week for eight weeks with a capacity to provide up to 3,000 vaccinations per day.

State officials are stressing the need for frontline workers to make time to make an appointment and get vaccinated.  On Tuesday they rolled out a new public service announcement featuring some of those workers:

As an elected official, Governor Cooper will be able to get vaccinated in the group opening up on Wednesday. He dismissed the idea of shopping for a vaccine with a higher efficacy.

“I’m happy to get any vaccine right now,” said the governor.”The great thing about all 3 of the vaccines that are out there is that all of them are very effective in preventing serious illness and death.”

Dr. Cohen said she would receive the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine later this week.

“These are safe and effective vaccines, I’m glad to be a frontline essential worker, and have access to these vaccines. I encourage everyone when it is their spot in line to get their shot.”

To date, more than 2.5 million doses of vaccine have been administered in our state, with 855,681 people receiving both doses of the vaccine.

COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate the incomes of low-wage workers

For many well-off North Carolinians, however, the recession ended long ago

Almost a year on after the arrival of COVID-19, hundreds of thousands of our state’s worst-paid workers still can’t find a job even as the recession is effectively over for some of the high-wage industries in North Carolina.

Anyone who’s been paying any attention knows COVID-19 is creating outsized suffering for low-wage workers, women, and people of color, but the magnitude of the economic disconnect is still often under-appreciated. In two short months from February to April of last year, nearly 270,000 leisure and hospitality jobs (roughly half of the positions in North Carolina) vanished. Most of the people who were put out of work had been getting paid meager wages and had little financial cushion to fall back on. A long history of occupational segregation and barriers to lucrative careers also meant women and people of color were particularly likely to have their livelihoods disappear.

On the other end of the wage scale, North Carolinians working in finance, business services, technology, and other white collar positions saw their daily lives upended, but many were able to shift to working remotely and most kept pulling down good paychecks. Even at the worst of the recession, 9 out of every 10 professional and business services workers were still on the job, and only 3% of people in finance were out of work

As different as the immediate impacts were, the divide is in many ways even more dramatic today. The recession was effectively over for the best paid North Carolinians by the later part of 2020, but our worst-paid workers are still stuck in a devastating economic hole. By the end of last year, all of the jobs lost to COVID-19 in Professional and Business Services had been recovered while one-fifth of the pre-pandemic jobs (117,500) in leisure and hospitality are still missing.

Patrick McHugh is the Research Manager for the N.C. Budget & Tax Center.

Ten years’ worth of NC traffic stop data reveal racial disparities in searches

North Carolina law enforcement officers searched Black drivers and/or their vehicles almost twice as often as their white counterparts, and at a much higher rate than drivers of other races, according to a report released by the North Carolina Criminal Justice Analysis Center on Monday. The Center within the Governor’s Crime Commission is charged with compiling and analyzing criminal justice data.

Police searched Black drivers/vehicles 45 of every 1,000 stops, compared with 23 of 1,000 stops for white drivers/vehicles.  Law enforcement searched drivers/vehicles of other races 14 of 1,000 stops.

Traffic stop data for 2009-2019 show that while the rate of searches of Hispanic drivers/vehicles has declined, Black drivers’ search rate has remained high.

Despite a consistent drop of overall traffic stops statewide in the past 10 years, the number of searches performed during these stops increased: 38,000 in 2019, compared with  31,856 in 2016, the report stated. The largest number of stops occurred in 2010, with 44,462.

On average, 3% of traffic stops resulted in a search during the same time period.

Speeding, which accounted for 42% of the times a driver was pulled over, rarely resulted in searches (1% of the time). But an individual who was believed to be driving while impaired was much more likely to be stopped and frisked, according to the data.

However, illegally-possessed drugs, alcohol, money, weapons and other items were found more often, from just over 10% of the searches in 2009 to over 30% in 2019. The report identified no racial difference in contraband discovery rate.

The data also show a transition to fewer searches with consent. Twelve years ago, the most common search was a consent search, where passengers and drivers agreed to have their belongings inspected by law enforcement officers.

In 2019, the rate of consent searches, which used to account for half of all searches declined sharply to 22%, overtaken by probable cause searches, in which law enforcement officers suspected a committed crime and searched without consent. This category of searches dominates all types of searches at 63%, up from 17% in 2009 when it was the least common.

Only less than 0.1% (1,224) of the searches undertaken in 2019 encountered resistance. Law enforcement reported using force against the driver or a passenger 596 times.

The new report follows up on two previous issues examining the demographics of and reasons for traffic stops from 2009 to 2019.