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Viral Photo Shows Kids With No Internet Using Taco Bell WiFi To Do Homework

The photo highlights how internet access is not a given in millions of American households.

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.

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. 

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.