Giving Compass' Take:
- Schools across the United States are implementing various measures to implement contact tracing to stop the spread of COVID-19, but some privacy concerns are emerging.
- How can schools grapple with these considerations while trying to control transmission? What ways can donors support schools through this pandemic?
- Read how community schools are supporting students and families during this time.
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As plans to reopen schools have ramped up across the country, so too have administrators' efforts to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
That's why many districts have turned to contact tracing, a system that aims to identify and alert those who may have been exposed to students and staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19.
How that's accomplished varies widely from district to district. And while, overall, experts say these efforts are off to a good start, some methods have raised concerns about student privacy.
In Tennessee’s Cleveland City School District, students are wearing masks, eating lunch in their classrooms and social distancing in hallways. Teachers are staying at their desks.
When someone starts showing symptoms of the disease — before there’s even a positive COVID test — those precautions go one step further.
“Maybe we look at seating charts … who they maybe spent time with in the hallway — anyone that we can determine has been within 6 feet for greater than 15 minutes,” said Laura Hudson, coordinator of school health for the district.
If the test comes back positive, principals are told to send home any students who were identified as contacts through these so-called “pre-tracing” efforts.
School nurses are the ones taking charge of contact tracing in Cleveland City Schools, which have seen about 25 positive cases so far this school year. The district currently has three active cases and 57 individuals in quarantine, according to the most recent data posted to its website at press time.
As in many states, that data also gets reported to the local and state health departments, which often partner with school districts on contact tracing efforts.
While many school districts have been collaborating with their local health departments, others are citing privacy concerns and refusing to release any information for fear of violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws.
Read the full article about privacy concerns over contact tracing by Natalie Gross at Education Dive.