Parents frustrated over policy in schools that sends students home with one COVID symptom

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Parents in Rhode Island are expressing their frustrations with school districts’ COVID-19 policies after they claim their children were sent home after coughing and sneezing in class.

Tiffany Vanstone, a mother to six children in Johnston Public Schools, said her eldest daughter was sent home after coughing in her special needs classroom and it has since impacted all of her kids.

“On Thursday I got a call probably around 10:30 in the morning that my daughter had a cough and I needed to pick her up. We were informed that we had to get her tested before she could come back to school and I asked do I have to pick up my other children and they said yes,” Vanstone said. “When I got home, my daughter was really upset, she started getting emotional, she didn’t want to miss school, she didn’t want to get tested, so I noticed that even getting so worked up she didn’t even cough.”

Vanstone said her daughter still isn’t showing symptoms and has tested negative, but she had to pull all of her children out of school that day.

“That was Thursday and she didn’t cough that day, she didn’t cough at night, the next morning…nothing. No cough. I called the nurse on Friday and I’m like, she didn’t cough, she doesn’t have a cough… and she said, well, I still have to follow the policy and have her tested.”

A spokesperson for the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), Victor Morente said policies are made at the local level and it’s up to school districts to decide when to send children home that might be showing symptoms.

The superintendent of Johnston Public Schools said the district is following the guidance laid out in RIDE’s playbook.

“The Playbook indicates that any one symptom of COVID should be treated as a probable case and the student should be isolated until a negative PCR is produced. The district is following these guidelines,” said Dr. Bernie Dilullo.

With cold and flu season approaching, Vanstone fears how often her children and their classmates will be sent home for coughs and sniffles. She said she’s already experiencing issues with her job and being able to stay home with them.

“I called my boss after being home for a few days and was like, this is gonna be ridiculous. I don’t know if I can come back to work with it being that policy because I have six kids. One of them’s gonna have a sniffle all the time pretty much.

“Now the kids are gonna be afraid to clear their throats, they can’t even have a tickle in your throat anymore. It’s a little ridiculous.”

To add insult to injury, the district is not providing children with the option of distance learning, according to Vanstone.

When ABC6 asked Dr. Dilullo to comment on the matter, he didn’t respond.

“Johnston isn’t offering distance learning. I’m going to pick up work tomorrow because I don’t think my son’s results will be back yet. So I’m gonna pick up work so they can get caught up. My youngest hasn’t been to school since last Thursday when we picked him up,” Vanstone said. “My kids have no choice right now. They’re not getting any work unless I go pick up papers, and I have to help them learn what they’re doing because the teacher’s not there on the screen anymore. It’s really frustrating. They really need to bring back distance learning if they’re gonna force people to stay home this often for a little cough.”

Johnston’s back-to-school plan can be found here.

WLNE-TV 2021

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Regional News, Rhode Island