Parents of an elementary school student knew their child tested positive for the virus but continued to send them to school for seven days, Dr. Brett Geithman, Superintendent of Larkspur-Corte Madera School District in Marin County, told CNN.
The student attends Neil Cummins Elementary School in Corte Madera, about 30 minutes north of San Francisco.
Geithman told CNN that school officials were not notified of the positive case until after Marin County Public Health contacted them, as it was never listed in the school’s database.
The public health department has a process in place with all labs in the area so that they are kept informed of new cases. They will then contact the school to confirm that the student has been quarantined, Dr. Matt Willis, the Marin County public health officer, told CNN.
“In this case, both the school and public health received inaccurate information from the parents, leading to a prolonged exposure interval.” said Willis.
“This is not just a violation of fundamental ethics, it is a violation of the law.” Willis told CNN that. “Violation may result in a fine or criminal prosecution as a felony. Due to the seriousness of this violation, we have referred the matter to the public prosecutor.”
“We didn’t know this positive case existed.” Geithman shared in a written statement to CNN. “When we called the household, we learned that the student tested positive, did not notify the schools, and then sent the student and their sibling to school for seven days.”
Multiple attempts had been made to ask the family to provide the name of the school, but they did not call back, Geithman added. When the health department finally discovered the name of the school, they notified the school officials.
Geithman told CNN that the staff at Neil Cummins Elementary acted immediately.
“The principal, the nurse and I tested about 50 students and 10 staff members in our gym on the morning of the 19th.” Geithman told CNN.
Reactions among officials and parents
“We’ve been very successful at having kids here every day for over a year now and 99%+ of our families follow the rules and understand the rules,” Geithman told CNN. “This is an opportunity to see this as a call to action and ask everyone to act with integrity. We all depend on each other.”
Geithman said this was the district’s first classroom broadcast.
“Their (the family’s) initial reaction was that they were unsure of Covid protocols,” Geithman said. “The process the parent was ordered by Marin County Public Health was to quarantine.”
The school district told CNN they have taken action against the parents, but the details of that sentence remain confidential.
“Since then, they have sent letters of apology to me, the principal and the teachers involved, acknowledging their lack of judgment,” Geithman told CNN. He also noted that all the children have recovered from Covid-19 and there was no serious illness among the group.
“This is a community that takes the Covid protocols very seriously and is acting on them. This is a one-off event where a family made a terrible decision that affected many students and involved the health and safety of our schools,” Geithman said.
Students and staff have to disguise themselves in the classroom, according to Geithman, who says, “If we didn’t have strict Covid protocols, the aftermath of this could have been much worse.”