A photo of two girls doing distance learning in a Taco Bell parking lot because they didn’t have wifi at home in East Salinas, California, went viral last week. After a Monterey County Supervisor posted a photo of the two girls after seeing it on Instagram — and, of course, covering their faces because they are children — the photo blew up on Twitter, especially after Luis Alejo, the supervisor, called for a universal broadband infrastructure for students in the area, given that these two girls, who did not have the internet at home, had to go work in a parking lot in order to get their essential school work done remotely.
2 of our children trying to get WiFi for their classes outside a Taco Bell in East Salinas! We must do better & solve this digital divide once &for all for all California students
— Luis Alejo (@SupervisorAlejo) August 26, 2020
According to another California legislator, Kevin de Leon, 40 percent of Latinos don’t have internet access, which is a huge problem normally but a more acute one at a time when school districts are either doing full-time remote learning or blended learning where kids are expected to be able to access the internet a few days a week. Luckily, Salinas City Elementary School District identified the two students and gave the family a hot spot so that they could access the internet from their homes.
Two students sit outside a Taco Bell to use Wi-Fi so they can 'go to school' online.
This is California, home to Silicon Valley…but where the digital divide is as deep as ever.
Where 40% of all Latinos don't have internet access. This generation deserves better. pic.twitter.com/iJPXvcxsLQ
— Kevin de Leόn (@kdeleon) August 28, 2020
The girls are not alone. According to Parents.com, about 15 to 16 million K-12 public school students don’t have high-speed internet or a device like a laptop or a computer. The issue is more pronounced in households that experience higher rates of poverty and in households in rural communities with Black, Latinx, and Native American students. And in California, where the girls live, that divide is bigger than in other states.
Luckily, these girls got a hotspot and can continue to do their schoolwork from home. But many millions of children are still struggling.