Students attending Exeter High School in New Hampshire were shocked when they showed up to prom and received a “branding” if they could not prove they had obtained both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Boston Herald reported that school officials used a marker to write a number on students’ hands if they were not fully vaccinated before allowing them into the prom.
“Students who were unable to provide a vaccination card because they did not have or share a card or had not completed the full vaccination process had a number written on their hand,” the high school said in a statement released on Thursday.
The school also said in its statement that it decided to hold an in-person prom due to “the significant drop in COVID cases, the broad availability of vaccines in the state for 17 and 18-year-olds and their vaccine rates.”
“To make it possible to be inclusive and have all seniors participate without requiring masks – knowing it was not possible to have a 100% vaccine rate – we needed to have a contract tracing system in place. All students were notified about this and as they registered, they were asked for vaccination information,” the school added, linking to a website that provided information about the prom to students prior to the event. That website, however, does not mention the use of markers to distinguish students who had not been vaccinated.
“No contract tracing system is perfect for crowds this large and not all students could be traced in a prom environment,” the school wrote. “However, without a contact tracing system, all attendees would have had to be quarantined if there was a positive case tied back to the event.”
The school said that no COVID cases have been linked to the prom so far, which was held on June 4.
The Herald reported that the “prom attendee list did not include the numbers assigned to the students, and only one set of cards with that information exists for tracking purposes.” The school told the outlet the cards would be destroyed “in the next few days.”
In the school’s statement, Principal Mike Monahan stated:
We are aware that some concerns have been expressed that 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. 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.
David Ryan, superintendent of New Hampshire School Administrative Unit 16, said the district takes “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.”
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