Tennessee parents are looking forward to sending their kids back to school, but many say they want to know more information about coronavirus cases in schools than most districts are currently willing to share.
Crystal Sanchez, for instance, wants her kindergartner to be able to attend school, so she can go to work. But her daughter attends Smyrna Elementary School in Rutherford County, which closed last week because of the coronavirus.
The school has since reopened, but Rutherford County is still not publicizing school-based numbers for active cases among teachers and students.
Sitting in the pickup line after school, Sanchez said she needs that information to know whether it’s safe to send her daughter.
“I think every parent that has a child that goes here should know about everything that goes on, because it affects my child, one way or another,” Sanchez said.
School districts are expected to notify the parents of students who have been exposed to COVID-19. But, in many instances, the rest of the school community remains in the dark.
Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey told reporters Tuesday parents could still get the information they want, but it will have to come from unofficial sources.
“If the school board and the school itself doesn’t want to disclose that information, I would suppose then that the other information channels are less official, through social media or word of mouth,” Piercey said.
She stressed that protecting the privacy of students is important.
But the pandemic has changed how some parents might feel about privacy, like Rutherford County parent Paul Anum. Rather than letting rumors run wild, he says he wants the information out there — even if it was his own second grader who was sick with COVID-19.
And it could even be helpful for other parents who haven’t been taking the pandemic seriously to put a face to a case, he says.
“If they’re seeing real people coming out and knowing they are having it, they are going to really take it seriously,” Anum says.
Gov. Bill Lee has said the state is working with the federal government to understand what information they can disclose. Experts in privacy laws say there is a way to give parents more information than what most districts are currently disclosing.