25 Percent of American Students Lack Resources for Remote Learning; Is the Death Penalty Inherently Racist?; and More

Digital divide for rural students and students of color continues to worsen.

A staggering 25% of all school-aged children in the U.S. live in households without reliable Wi-Fi and consistent broadband internet service or access to web-enabled devices such as a computer or tablet, according to data from the National Education Association (NEA). While this finding was troubling before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it’s even more dire now that remote learning is a part of everyday life for tens of thousands of children across the country. As infection rates continue to soar and the cold winter months loom ahead, that number of those without access to essential technology is only going to continue to grow and worsen. This digital divide, where even the most eager and willing students are unable to learn because of factors outside their or their families’ control, is having a dire impact especially on indigenous students, rural students and students of color — demographics that are all much less likely to have the full connectivity needed to attend virtual learning, access their lessons or complete required homework. And solutions for the issue don’t appear to be on the horizon anytime soon. Take the state of New Jersey as just one example of the problems at play here. In June 2020, the New Jersey School Boards Association reported that 358,000 students needed devices for remote learning. A month later in July, the state announced $54 million in grants and philanthropic contributions as part of an effort to “bridge the digital divide.” Three months after the initiative, when Politico tried to obtain information on where that money was going and how it had been used so far, they were told the “application and review process is still ongoing.” Multiply that disorder and inefficiency by 50 states and it’s easy to see just how big a problem we have to overcome to make sure all of the nation’s children are getting the materials and resources they need for a proper education.


Death penalty procedures are inherently racist, CA Gov. Gavin Newsom argues in new filing.

The process for imposing the death penalty “is now, and always has been, infected by racism,” Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed in a brief his office filed with the California Supreme Court on Oct. 26. The problem in his state and many others, Newsom argued, is that since Blacks as a whole tend to oppose the death penalty more often than whites, they’re also significantly less likely to wind up as jurors on cases where the death penalty is being considered. When it comes to sentencing, Blacks also prefer mitigation more often than whites and are “more likely than white jurors to ‘keep the sin separate from the sinner’ no matter what the race,” he said. Because of this, death penalty cases tend to have more white jurors and those jurors end up being more likely to favor imposing the death penalty in criminal cases. The data for Newsom’s state backs up his claim: Nancy Haydt, executive director of anti-capital punishment advocacy group Death Penalty Focus, told The Associated Press that in Los Angeles County 305 people had been sentenced to death since 1977. Forty-four percent of those people were Black and just 17% were white. Despite these rulings, California has not carried out a state execution since 2006. Newsom also called for an end to all state executions last year, proclaiming that he “will not oversee the execution of any individual.”

Biden vows to pass Equality Act within 100 days if elected.

Long a supporter of LGBTQ rights and equality, and part of the administration that helped to pass Marriage Equality in 2015, former Vice President Joe Biden has the reputation as a staunch ally and supporter of the LGBTQ community. And now, Reuters has reported he’s backing up his actions even further with a new promise made in an interview with Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal. If elected, Biden said, “I will make enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during my first 100 days — a priority that Donald Trump opposes.” The Equality Act is a bill in the United States Congress, that, if passed, would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit and the jury system. The Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019 but has yet to be taken up in the Senate for a vote. Currently, 29 states have not officially outlawed anti-LGBT discrimination. The Equality Act would force these states to change their policies.


D.I. Fast Fact

Less than 10%

Number of higher education professionals who are Black.
College and University Professional Association for Human Resources


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Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.



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