August 2021 eNews

Table of Contents

  • Co-Authored Opinion: SC must invest more in early childhood education
  • An update from The Greenville News: SC Superintendent and SCAAP Urge the Use of Masks in Schools
  • A Profile in Service: ICS Board Member, JoKeitha Seabrook
  • Resources: 3-Part Blog Series - Children and COVID
  • Upcoming Events: Implicit Bias Trainings, and SC Kinship Caregiver Conference
  • 10 Years of Impact Event Now Virtual
A Profile in Service:
ICS Board of Directors Member,
JoKeitha Seabrook
by Amber Posey, Policy Research Associate

JoKeitha was born in Duncan, South Carolina when her mother was 16 years old. Her mom, still a kid herself, depended heavily on the kindness and availability of their community for child care. JoKeitha’s aunt, and her neighbor, Ms. Mary supplied much of her daily care and while JoKeitha remembers these women with admiration as an adult, as a child she tried hiding what was to her an unconventional upbringing from her friends. What her home life lacked in access to books and structure, she often found in school under her teachers’ guidance and sometimes from an unlikely source, like the alarm clock her mother gifted her in elementary school. What was on the surface a common bedroom item, became to JoKeitha a tool for self-sufficiency. The compassion and attention of her teachers helped JoKeitha move through some of the challenges of her childhood and forge a path for herself that included a strong support system outside of her home, including friends and extracurricular activities throughout high school (band nerd alert!), and into the higher education space where she would pursue an interest in pediatric therapy.

While studying for her degree, she worked full-time and struggled with hunger and burnout to the point her academic career suffered. Six months later she left school and returned home. It wouldn’t be until her thirties when JoKeitha would return to school at Trident Technical College in Charleston, SC—this time to pursue an interest in teaching 3rd graders—a year when her own experience showed her a child could be most impacted by positive influence. She quickly learned the classroom environment changed drastically from the one she remembered as a child, lacking the warmth and personal attention she received years earlier. Feeling disenchanted by the education space, she left school to secure a job at a bank. She excelled at this job, but upon being overlooked for a management opportunity due to her lack of a degree, JoKeitha made the decision to go back to school at USC Upstate to secure an education in Interdisciplinary Studies with non-profit and for-profit administration course work. She got her degree and a new position with the City of Spartanburg. If ever there was a better time to use the phrase “turning lemons into lemonade,” JoKeitha did just that. She turned an administrative position into a coordinator position, and through more hours and work than we could possibly detail here, that coordinator position with the city became a 10-year career with United Way, culminating with the title Associate Vice President of Community Impact.

Today, JoKeitha runs her own consulting firm, 3FG, a name inspired by three strong women in her family, including herself, who were born to teenage moms and who built impressive careers and impactful lives, despite lacking access to the resources afforded to many future CEOs and leaders. More impressive than her life’s path, JoKeitha’s spirit and love for community outreach and uplifting is a service to South Carolinians who believe in the potential of every individual to be great, if given the time, attention and respect they deserve.
3-Part Blog Series

by Megan Carolan, ICS Vice President of Research

The summer 2021 surge in COVID-19 cases, despite widespread vaccination in the U.S., is particularly concerning for those focused on child health. Several factors have coincided to create a crisis of the spread of COVID-19 through a more infectious mutated strain (the Delta variant)–the continued low adult vaccination rate in parts of the country; the nuances of vaccinating children for COVID; and the pending start of a new school year, mostly in-person. 

The rates of children now testing positive for COVID-19 are increasing, representing a larger share of overall cases than it has at any previous time in this pandemic; severe cases resulting in hospitalizations and deaths are still rare, but experts warn that this wave represents a stronger threat to children than previous waves, and data in many states show a recent increase in hospitalizations for children. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic to the end of July, a total of about 4.2 million children have been documented to have COVID-19. Children represent 14 percent of all those who have contracted COVID in the U.S. since the beginning of the crisis; i however, from July 22 to 29, children represented 19 percent of new COVID cases–see graphic below. 

by Megan Carolan, ICS Vice President of Research
Children At Risk Due to Lagging Vaccinations 

Experts urge that widespread adult vaccination is key to protecting children while so many are still unable to be vaccinated. Since the end of April, one COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in teens and tweens ages 12 to 17. Vaccination rates by age group is in the graphic below:

Source: Analysis of . Note that adolescents ages 12 to 17 are only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, which is a two-dose vaccine, while those over 17 may choose between one- and two-dose options.

Less than half of adolescents in both the 12-15 and 16-17 age groups have completed the vaccination series. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health officials stress that increasing the vaccination rate in this age group could be an important preventative measure as schools reopen, particularly with the spread of the more infectious Delta variant. 

The situation is more complicated for young children. Clinical trials are currently underway for children ages 5 to 11, with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently asking these companies to add additional children to their studies in order to ensure any rare side effects may be caught during the trial. The Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) has now sent a letter to the FDA encouraging an expedited approval of the vaccine for these children, “based on data from the initial enrolled cohort, which are already available, while continuing to follow safety data from the expanded cohort in the post-market setting.” Trials have not yet begun for children under the age of 5, but the AAP writes that they believe a clinical trial can be safely completed for this age range with a 2-month safety follow-up based on “scientific data currently available on COVID-19 vaccines, as well as on 70 years of vaccinology knowledge in the pediatric population.” 

by Alexis Herschkowitsch, Associate Director of Equity & Innovation
The upcoming school year, which has already begun in many parts of the country, is already not the ones parents imagined it to be. The rapid rise of the Delta variant, a more contagious variant than prior ones, combined with lower-than-expected vaccination rates to create a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections across the nation. Parents who had been excited to send their children back to school in-person, in light of the myriad benefits for children both from a social-emotional standpoint and an academic one, are now finding themselves worrying about their children’s health and wondering how best to proceed with the 2021-2022 school year. Add to this the various bans on mask mandates around the U.S, and there is a confusing and worrisome situation.

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is clear: it recommends universal indoor masking in schools for all children ages two and up, as well as staff, teachers, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is similarly clear in its recommendation that all children two and over engage in universal masking indoors at school.

Let’s look at the data underlying these recommendations. It is well documented that masks work in two ways: by blocking the exhalation of respiratory droplets that can contain virus, as well as by filtering the air inhaled by an individual wearing a mask, ensuring that larger virus-containing droplets cannot pass through the mask...

Upcoming Events
ICS Collaboration to Bring Implicit Bias Trainings to Early Childhood Educators

by Mary C. Garvey, ICS VP of Equity & Innovation

On October 5, ICS will partner with Sharp Brain Consulting and Palmetto Shared Services Alliance (PSSA) to host the first in a set of implicit bias trainings for PSSA members–preschool staff and administrators.

Nationally, approximately 250 preschoolers are suspended or expelled each day.[i] A child who is larger than their peers, Black and a boy is most likely to have this experience.[ii] Implicit bias is often the cause. The Yale School of Medicine has defined implicit bias as “the automatic and unconscious stereotypes that drive people to behave and make decisions in certain ways.”[iii] UCLA’s Dr. Jerry Kang adds that a bias is implicit (and not explicit) when we are either “unaware of or mistaken about the source of the thought or feeling.[iv]

Our upcoming training aims to take a deep dive, answering several key questions: What is implicit bias? How can we identify our own biases? How does implicit bias generally manifest in the classroom? And finally, what safeguards and other strategies can we implement to ensure that children are safe from biases and that classrooms are nurturing environments for all children? ICS looks forward to expanding our offerings this fall and hosting even more trainings to meet the needs of our colleagues across the state.
[i] Rasheed Malik. New Data Reveal 250 Preschoolers are Suspended or Expelled Every Day. 
[ii] New Data 
[iii] Walter S. Gilliam, et al. Do Early Educators’ Implicit Biases Regarding Sex and Race Relate to Behavior
Expectations and Recommendations of Preschool Expulsions and Suspensions? Yale University Child Study Center, September 2016 
[iv] Jerry Kang. Implicit Bias: A Primer for Courts. National Center for State Courts, 2009.
10 Years of Impact Event Now Virtual
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
11 am-12 pm
*stay tuned for watch instructions*
Sponsored by:

South Carolina Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics
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