EXETER, N.H. — Exeter School District has opened an investigation into the reported use of markers to identify unvaccinated students at the high school’s prom, just one of multiple issues related to schooling there that has sparked condemnation and anger in the community.
School administrators running the prom reportedly tagged students’ hands with a marker to identify if they were vaccinated to facilitate contract tracing at the prom last month, the Portsmouth Herald reported.
On June 15, parents of Exeter High School students and administrators met at a contentious public forum to talk about the school’s pandemic response, including the contact tracing at prom, mask requirements and critical race theory proposed to be taught in schools.
Superintendent David Ryan said at the forum with some 200 attendees that the decision to mark students was “not a good look.”
Board member Travis Thompson said the contact tracing should have been implemented differently but it was an essential COVID-19 safeguard.
The school said in a statement that the students were notified about the contract tracing before they registered for prom. The contact tracing program was an effort to include all students at prom, regardless of their vaccination status, the school said.
A Facebook post by state Rep. Melissa Litchfield detailed concerns she said Exeter High School parents shared with her. The post, which included an allegedly reference from a parent to Nazi Germany, galvanized a public backlash to the use of markers.
At the forum, parents and members of the community said the trust between the school and its community has been broken. Others called for the termination of school administrators like Ryan, the newspaper said.
Members of the community were not just angered by the contact tracing. On Monday, a forum was held to discuss a middle school student who was singled out by a teacher for wearing a shirt with a pro-police Thin Blue Line flag on it, and comments made by the principal about parents who opposed teaching critical race theory in class, the newspaper said.
As a result of the national spotlight on the district, the administrators and board members have received threats of violence against them said Chairwoman Helen Joyce.
Ryan said that the audit would clarify how decisions were made during prom night and how the community can move forward.
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