Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Lack of Regulation—Lack of Safety

Posted 02/10/2022 by McKenzy Perkins

Students are seen fighting for safer protocols in school due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. photo by Lauren Glassberg 

Multiple schools across the country are walking out in protest of a lack of COVID-19 regulations. 

As COVID-19 cases have surged over the past few months due to the spread of the new variant, Omicron, students believe that the current protocols meant to stop the spread are not sufficient enough in schools across the country. Students in schools such as Brooklyn Technical High School and Thomas Jefferson High School have decided to host walkouts if their demands are not met, along with students in the Oakland School District. These students have requested that N-95 masks be distributed to students and faculty alike, as well as having sheltered eating areas outside be made available to students during the days where the weather is unfavorable. Students are demanding that if their needs are not met, schools should transition into hybrid learning conditions. 

Despite over 200 students in the New York City School District walking out, the school board has not responded to their requests. Similarly, Oakland schools have refused to meet the demands of several students, so those students have threatened to walkout as more students and staff get sick. Since these school boards are refusing to even somewhat meet the demands of those that have threatened to walkout or have walked out, students are continuing to press for more people to join them. They continue to feel invalidated as teachers and staff refuse to help their cause and promote their safety. However, some districts have been listening, such as the Chicago District School Board, which responded to the walkouts held by Chicago students and decided to transition into remote learning for one week in order to meet the proper conditions and input the accepted protocols into their schools. Most people believe that online learning is detrimental to a student’s education because schools pride themselves on being a safe space, somewhere where kids can find a sense of reality and security in their lives and in their education. However, this raises the question: can schools be safe and offer a sense of security to students if there are not adequate COVID-19 protocols in place to protect the lives of all students? To these students the answer is no, such as Paige Mulligan, a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School, who commented, “You cannot get an education if you are dead.”

Thomas Jefferson High School students who participated in the walkout gathered about 600 signatures in support of the protest beforehand. These students demanded that the district provide schools with N95 or KN95 masks, improve filtration in classrooms, conduct COVID-19 testing twice a week for all students, improve and integrate virtual learning, and add weather-protected outdoor spaces. There are students who believe that the absence of protocol is generally acceptable, but there are also students who believe that these additional measures are needed as they are desperately concerned with the spike in cases throughout the country. 

The National COVID-19 database communicates that on January 10th, 2022, the United States had 7,795 COVID-19 cases reported in Denver. A good portion of those cases are centered around schools, consisting mostly of students and staff. Students believe that one of the main contributing factors to the rise of cases in schools is due to mask mandates not being strongly enforced. Mulligan expanded on this, sharing that in a few of her classes, “the teachers are very chill with [the] mask stuff and enforcing that rule.” As a result, students have grouped together and decided that asking for change and fighting for their rights, as students, is the best thing they could do, especially since most school districts around the country will not agree to the terms that the students put forth. Jon Poole, a Thomas Jefferson High School administrator, believes that although some students and staff are uncomfortable with the current situation, he supports the people who want to initiate change by expressing and using their rights as students. Mulligan agreed with Poole and stated, “If it’s for something you are passionate about, go for it. Walkout, be in the community and stand up for the things you care about.” Mulligan makes it clear that she supports those that feel as though they are not being properly protected by staff and CDC protocol. When Poole reflected on the demands that students have, to be properly protected, he stated that “N-95 masks are available, mostly to staff, but if a student were to walk into my office and request one, I would be happy to give them one.” Poole also noted that those masks are in high demand, thus they are very difficult to get from verified suppliers. However, if Poole could enforce one thing to make regulations better, he would “make sure that students wear their masks as masks, not as chin straps.” 

About 50 Thomas Jefferson High School students walked out on Thursday, January 20th, 2022.  Other students in schools are watching this ripple effect, which began at the Boston Technical School in New York City, and are planning on fighting not just for their safety, but also for the safety of others.