Wisconsin Parents Are Knowingly Sending COVID-Positive Kids To School

by Christina Marfice
Halfpoint Images/Getty

Health officials in Wisconsin say parents are still sending kids to classes after positive COVID tests, and it could shut down entire school districts

Like in many parts of the country, schools in Wisconsin are still stumbling their way through attempts to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. It hasn’t been going well anywhere in the country, but public health officials in Wisconsin are now saying they may have to shut down entire districts — because parents are knowingly sending their kids to school after they test positive for COVID-19.

“The health department has worked with school districts since spring to make a plan to reopen,” Kirsten Johnson, public health director for Washington and Ozaukee counties, told reporters. “Never in a million years did we imagine or think to account for parents deliberately sending their sick or symptomatic child to school.”

You can almost hear the incredulity in that quote. Schools are doing everything they can to reopen safely and mitigate the chance that COVID-19 will spread within their walls. But parents who throw caution to the wind and send their sick kids to class, regardless of who they might infect or, God forbid, kill? How is that also a thing that school districts have to deal with right now?

According to news reports, there are 15 school districts in the two counties, and 11 of them are currently under investigation. Kids or staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in more than two dozen individual schools, despite preventative measures like limits on class sizes, staggered school start times, and face masks being required for all students and staff.

So far, Johnson said, every school district in the two counties has had at least one positive COVID case. Her exasperation was evident when she told reporters, “The human behavior aspect of sending sick and positive children to school is not something we can control, and we never accounted for people completely disregarding basic health guidance. We have no tools left, and we just want everyone to be safe.”

She added, “A handful of irresponsible parents could be responsible for closing down entire school districts.”

This isn’t even the first place where this has happened. In Massachusetts, 30 people were forced to quarantine after they came into contact with a high school student whose parents knowingly sent them to school three days after testing positive for COVID-19.

“It was a reckless action to send a child — a teenager — to school who was COVID-positive,” a local mayor there told reporters, in what should have been basic common sense. “It was really poor judgment. If you know that your child has coronavirus, is COVID-positive, you should not send your child to school under any circumstances.”