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One of the prevailing moods over the past several months has been horror.
An 18-year-old in May fatally shot 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
In the days after the tragedy, horror was punctuated by anger, which mourners directed toward a number of issues, including the tremendous flaws of the police response to the deadliest US campus shooting since Sandy Hook, in 2012.
This week, the Uvalde school board unanimously voted to fire police chief Pete Arredondo, and five Robb Elementary School parents filed complaints with the school district, demanding that the superintendent be removed. One of the parents told CNN that he wants “accountability,” which, he said, “starts with the superintendent and anyone below him.”
Yet the shooting and its aftermath have touched off vital conversations not only about the “systemic failures and egregious poor decision making” of law enforcement and other authorities, as a Texas House committee report puts it, but also about the future of education in a rural working-class town that’s predominantly Hispanic.
Some parents in the district are returning their children to in-person classes when the school year begins on September 6. Others are remaining in the district but are opting for online instruction. And still others are pulling their kids out of the public school system altogether and embracing homeschooling or private education.
Diana Olvedo-Karau, with the district’s transportation department, said recently that she’s concerned about how taking kids out of schools could affect funding since, in Texas, schools receive financial support based on student enrollment and on-campus attendance.
Moreover, some Hispanic leaders worry about lingering trauma in a community that faces structural and cultural barriers to mental health resources – about the impact that fear could have on education and upward mobility. In Uvalde, just north of 30% of children live in poverty, according to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
“I keep thinking about education,” Ronnie Garza, a county commissioner, said earlier this summer. “I feel for the children. How are they going to feel on the first day of school? I keep thinking of the teachers. Are they going to want to come back to school?”
The fallout from the Uvalde shooting is one issue at the juncture of race and equality to keep a close watch over. But there are others. Here are five stories to follow in the weeks ahead:
What happened: It was revealed, through the drip-drip-drip of alarming details, that it took more than an hour for responding officers to confront the gunman after the shooting began, as parents outside begged for something to be done. Some law enforcement experts say that, without this delay, lives could’ve been saved.
What to watch next: A class action lawsuit is being planned against law enforcement over their response to the massacre.
Legal proceedings against the Buffalo shooter
What happened: In May, a White 18-year-old allegedly drove about three hours to a grocery store in a largely Black area of Buffalo, New York, and gunned down 10 shoppers. The carnage threw a light on an age-old pattern in the US of weaponizing White fear of perceived racial dispossession, as I’ve previously reported.
What to watch next: The accused gunman’s next court appearance is October 6, the deadline for defense attorneys to comb through evidence and decide if they want to file a notice of psychiatric defense. Further, his legal team will possibly challenge the federal grand jury’s selection process. Defense attorneys have asked to review data about the jury pool that members were drawn from. As Anthony O’Rourke, a professor at the University at Buffalo School of Law, told the Buffalo News, the accused shooter’s attorneys “have an ethical obligation to raise any non-frivolous claim that they’re able to raise and to diligently prepare a record for appeal.”
Push to curb gun violence
What happened: Prompted in part by the shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, President Joe Biden last month signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. It was the first significant federal gun safety legislation passed in nearly 30 years – since Bill Clinton signed the now-expired Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, in 1994.
What to watch next: The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is nothing to sneeze at. But in not banning any weapons, it falls short of what most Americans want, according to polls. As a result, some Democratic-controlled state legislatures are designing their own laws to curb gun violence. Some observers are concerned about the potential unintended consequences of such laws, which have at times in the past disproportionately harmed Black Americans, and are urging people to keep an eye on how gun control laws are crafted and implemented, as my CNN colleague Eva McKend and I have previously reported.
What happened: On Wednesday, Biden announced that his administration is taking action to cancel up to $10,000 of student loan debt for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 a year and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients, using the same income cap. He also said that the White House plans to extend the repayment freeze one more time, to December 31.
What to watch next: It’s too early to tell how impactful Biden’s efforts will be, specifically when it comes to shrinking the racial wealth gap. But, already, some observers argue that more ought to be done. “Biden must recognize and regard student debt as a racial and economic justice issue. Canceling $50,000 or more per borrower would free millions of Americans, allowing them to become more active participants in the US economy,” as the NAACP’s Derrick Johnson and Wisdom Cole wrote for CNN Opinion. “And, after generations of racial oppression, it would finally open the door for so many Americans to become homeowners and generate wealth.”
Virginia’s history standards battle
What happened: The Virginia Board of Education this month postponed reviewing modifications to the state’s 2022 History and Social Science Standards of Learning, or SOLs, which were inspired in part by an intent to “incorporate diverse perspectives.”
What to watch next: The nine-member board will meet to review the 402-page standards in September. In important ways, this tension—between the board’s four Democratic members and Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s five new appointees, all of whom advocated for the delay—exemplifies a much broader political battle over education. Youngkin has made clear his determination to drive out of classrooms any rigorous discussion of race and racism. But as I’ve previously reported, he isn’t the only one. His actions rhyme with those of other conservative legislators and school board officials across the country attempting to undermine instruction about identity. Just this week near Dallas, Texas, a school district board passed policies restricting how race and gender are addressed, and in Norman, Oklahoma, a teacher resigned, pointing to a state law that requires educators to censor books in classroom libraries.