TOMS RIVER – When a student is diagnosed with COVID-19, contact tracers will tell everyone they’ve been close to, in order to warn them, and to slow the spread to others.
The identity of the student is not made public in order to protect their privacy.
But this is 2020. News spreads. Kids find out who is sick. Even if the kids are learning from home, they are all connected on their remote devices. They are texting and group chatting. Soon, everyone knows.
This adds a new wrinkle for district leaders in trying to prevent bullies which might be literally adding insult to injury.
Districts throughout the area were contacted for this article about what emotional supports are in place for students who have tested positive and might be targeted by their peers. All of them spoke of how this would fall under anti-bullying curriculum in general that is in place throughout the year.
Character education includes how to treat others and how to respond to and report bullying, district officials said. They had not been made aware of any specific cases of bullying over COVID diagnoses.
“The one area that is stressed is confidentiality,” Manchester Superintendent David Trethaway said. “Students do not necessarily want others to know about the situation other than the nurse. The nurses are the main contact with the students. They share with students and families that if they have any issues that would be related to bullying or any other issues, they could contact guidance or the nurses directly. That would be their option. The administration is also aware of any social media posts that may be detrimental to the student.”
Berkeley Township District Superintendent James Roselli said that the social and emotional health of the students are a big component of education. Staff have been cognizant of the issues that children have been having, and have been working to address them.
“We’ve been providing emotional support throughout the year, because there are kids having trouble with this in general,” he said.
“We make sure we are following all of our procedures to be consistent and safe,” Central Regional Superintendent Triantafillos Parlapanides said. “Guidance plays a part in the process in that they change the student to all virtual for the two weeks. Our students are very good in understanding” that if someone gets infected and has to quarantine that it is not a reason to treat them any differently.
Barnegat Superintendent Brian Latwis was interviewed for this article earlier in the season and only had one student test positive at that time. He said that emotional supports are in place for students but that has not been an issue the district had encountered.
In Toms River, there is a district-wide Youth Counseling Program in place thanks to an H. Hovnanian Foundation grant, spokesman Michael Kenny said. This program is not specific to COVID but was in place before the coronavirus hit. Every student has access to it, so the emotional supports are in place.