Parents in Exeter, New Hampshire are furious that the school district marked students attending prom with red and black markers to denote if they were vaccinated against COVID-19 or not.
"Children that were not vaccinated were written on in black Sharpie on their hands and those that were vaccinated had some type of red marker put on them," Republican State Rep. Melissa Litchfield said in a report by 10 Boston News.
Litchfield got involved after several constituents contacted her about the June 4 incident.
“As your state representative, I am trying to gather further information regarding the events that took place at the Exeter High School Prom this past weekend,” she posted on Facebook June 8. “These complaints revolved around confidentiality surrounding those who did and did not receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and the labeling that came along with that.”
According to Litchfield, parents told her that students that did not have the vaccine had a number written on their hand in black marker and had to raise their hands on the dance floor every couple of songs so observers could see who they were dancing near “for contact tracing purposes.”
Students with the vaccine were written on with a red marker.
According to a statement from the high school, the protocols for contact tracing were put in place to allow all seniors to participate without masks or a 100 percent vaccination rate.
The school said more than 300 students were expected to attend the prom.
Exeter High School Principal Mike Monahan sent an email response to the news outlet to clarify what happened.
"Our student and parent feedback has been extremely positive regarding the prom experience. We are aware that some concerns have been expressed those students were singled out or had their privacy violated. We made every effort possible – while adhering to contact tracing guidelines – to ensure that this did not happen," Principal Mike Monahan said in the emailed statement. "We hope the community will understand that while no model is perfect, this model let the students enjoy a close to normal and highly desired experience to cap off their senior year. That’s the memory we want to leave them with."
Monahan said that the students were aware of the contact tracing procedure when they signed up to attend the prom, but several parents told Litchfield they had no idea what the protocol was or how it was used.
Litchfield said pictures sent to her of students posing for prom photos clearly show the markings on the hands.
"You had to produce your papers, and if you didn't produce your papers, you were branded with a black Sharpie," Litchfield said. "What does that mean to you? I'm just going to let that sit there."
In a statement on the high school’s website, Superintendent Dr, David Ryan said he was aware of the concerns expressed by parents and would be conducting an “audit” of the process.
“We are very aware of the concerns that have been expressed regarding the contact tracing plan at the Exeter High School prom,” Ryan’s statement said. “Right now, our focus needs to be on graduation and ensuring that our seniors have a positive experience as they close their chapter on high school after an extremely challenging 16 months in a pandemic. We take these concerns very seriously and as a result, we will be conducting an internal audit of the processes that the school developed and used at prom. We will not be commenting further on this matter until the internal review has been completed. We look forward to this weekend's graduation ceremony that is being held outdoors with physical distancing as our health and safety guideline.”
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