Exeter, NH

Exeter High School sharpies unvaccinated students' hands for school prom

Tara Blair Ball

Photo by Marcel Strauß on Unsplash

Most of us think of prom as a time to dress up and celebrate the end of the school year. But COVID-19 changed that for many students. Schools didn't host proms in 2020, and many canceled their graduation ceremonies altogether, or had creative alternatives.

As more of the population is getting vaccinated, we are adjusting to a "new" normal. But the COVID-19 vaccine still remains a highly divisive subject. Many people refuse to get vaccinated and consider it "experimental" or have concerns for its safety and efficacy.

Exeter High School in Exeter, NH recently came under flack for what, they call, their attempt at their 2021 prom to "contact trace."

“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 school announced. This number would identify an individual's vaccine status and, in practice, help school officials be able to trace who may have been exposed to the Coronavirus in the event that someone tested positive later.

Prior to the event, students were informed that there would be a "contact tracing system," but it was not reported at that time what that contact tracing system would consist of. Students were not informed before the event that their hands would be marked with sharpie to indicate whether they'd received both shots of the vaccine, only one, or none at all.

When it came out on social media that this high school had chosen to do this, there was a huge outcry. Many students and parents felt unfairly targeted or that their confidentiality had been violated by making it clear who had and hadn't had the vaccine.

State Rep. Melissa Litchfield received e-mails and letters from her constituents speaking out against this protocol. She shared one comment: "We truly feel they are literally branding our kids if they don’t get this experiential ’emergency’ approved vaccine.”

The superintendant for Exeter High School is taking the negative response very seriously. He said, “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.”

Whether anyone's confidentiality was violated has yet to be seen, but State Rep. Melissa Litchfield is looking more into it. She requests that if you know anything to share it with her.

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Certified Relationship Coach and Writer. E-mail: tarablairball@gmail.com

Memphis, TN

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