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The Tragic Death of Grade 10 Teacher Keenan Anderson Highlights the Need for Black Men in Education

Alana Matthew | 101 Magazine Digital Pioneer Academy posted a letter written in memory of Keenan Anderson. Photo Courtesy of Digital Pioneers Academy website.

Digital Pioneer Academy, a charter school in Southeast Washington D.C., is grappling with loss. A member of their faculty, a grade 10 English teacher, 31-year-old Keenan Alexander, died on Jan. 3 after an encounter with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).  

Anderson was reportedly trying to find help after a car collision. Edited body cam footage shows officers approaching Anderson. Anderson complied with officers until he panicked believing someone was planting evidence on him and fled the scene, causing a chase. Members of Anderson’s family have said that based on the footage, Anderson wasn’t in the right mind. 

The footage reveals officers chased and restrained Anderson using physical force and an electrical taser to detain him. According to the L.A. Times, Anderson was tased six times in 42 seconds. He later went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead four hours later. Attornies representing his 5-year-old son have since filed a $50 million claim against the city. 

In the weeks following Anderson’s death, his name has made headlines as many have questioned when the brutality against Black bodies will stop after years of brutal murders and spark-filled protests.

However, an article from Andscape highlights an unhighlighted tragedy in the case of Keenan Anderson. The first line quotes a study from The Hechinger Report, “schools cannot afford to lose any more Black male educators.” In the United States, Black educators make up less than 8 percent of the overall population. Out of that percentage, only 2 percent account for Black male educators. 

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of having diversity represented in the classroom, especially in regard to Black children. 

Re’Jon Jones, a junior English major from Camden, New Jersey currently serves as Mr. School of Education, his second year in office.

As a Black man and future educator, Jones was able to share his thoughts on the significance of Black men in the field. “Black men have a lot to offer in the classroom, we need more Black men in the classroom,” he said.

A 2018 John Hopkins study found that students who have Black teachers in elementary school are more likely to graduate from high school. In the case of Black male students, the benefits of seeing themselves in the classroom are not substantial.

Jassiah McAnuff, a political science major from New York, said this reason as to why the loss of Anderson is especially devastating. “It just shows you that you can be a teacher, a basketball player, whatever, and still be seen a certain way in the eyes of the law.”

Explaining that Black male educators are already so “scarce” in the field, Jones emphasized the importance of keeping male educators in the classroom. 

“When we get these teachers, we need society to treat them right so we don’t have to mourn their deaths.” Jones expressed that he couldn’t imagine the grief Anderson’s students must be feeling, especially after the school had already lost two students to gun violence. 

Principal Mashea Ashton, wrote a public letter on their school’s website, in honor of Anderson’s memory. “Our community is grieving,” she wrote. “ But we’re also angry. Angry that, once again, a known, loved, and respected member of our community is no longer with us. Angry that another talented, beautiful Black soul is gone too soon.  

Eliana Lewis

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