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Racism a worry for kids on their way back to school

Photo: John Wojcik, KSL NewsRadio

SALT LAKE CITY— It’s not just the virus. 

A new survey of 1,000 teens from the Allstate Foundation found while near 8 in 10 teens say they are worried about the virus while going back to school, even more are worried about their related mental-well being, over their physical health.  Another worry for 68% of the back to school respondents:  Racism.

Salt Lake City Licensed Child Psychologist Dr. Douglas Goldsmith says “[Kids] have gotten used to washing their hands and wearing masks, and they are still worried about bringing it home to their parents or grandparents… but a lot of their concern about COVID has calmed down.  I do think it will go back up again once school starts.”  Dr. Goldsmith says right now, however, school kids are conscious of the seismic shift in the conversation about race and racism.     

“Because of the Black Lives Matter Movement, that’s now more present in their minds.  [They are questioning,] What are the protests about?  Some of them appear to be violent,  and [they are wondering] will that violence be transferred into the hallways of their school.”

Dr. Goldsmith says he’s not just seeing this from minority children, but all children.  “There is a lot of racist chatter in all the school, public or private… Black children being called names and bullied… Hispanic children have been hearing ‘why don’t you go back where you came from’…. I’m hearing concern from children with LGBTQ issues [too].”  He thinks what’s happened now is the concerns about the protests are making kids confused about what they are going to face when they go back to school.

WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?

Dr. Goldsmith says it’s paramount that parents ask questions about what’s happening.

“What are you hearing in the hallway, what are kids talking about in the lunchroom?”  Parents of minority children should be direct.  “Are you getting bullied, are you having kids call you names or horrible things?”  He says parents then need to take action.

“Go to school and talk about this.  [Your kids] shouldn’t have to be scared to go to school.” 

Goldsmith thinks education of the bigger picture needs to be a part of a child’s understanding.  He recommends parents to speak to kids in plain, simple language about these issues. “It’s also important that they understand the movement of Black Lives Matter… It’s not saying that ‘all lives don’t matter’, that is not the issue.  It’s focusing on the plight of Black people in this country…. that have a long history of not being treated fairly.”