KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A mother in the Louisburg School District is questioning a COVID-19 policy that involves photographing students, which was not disclosed to parents.
“Who has the pictures? What happens to them? How long do we keep them," Tiffany Ellison said.
Ellison said she contacted the Louisburg High School principal after her daughter told her the Wildcats track coach was taking a group photo of her and other student-athletes at practice for contact-tracing purposes.
“There’s not a policy on picture taking for COVID-19 tracing and school districts are not given the freedom to take pictures for COVID-19 tracing purposes, and in fact they are really not allowed to COVID-19 trace," Ellison said.
Kansas House Bill 2016 created the COVID-19 Contact Tracing Privacy Act.
It protects the privacy of those whose information is collected through contact tracing and also requires that individuals performing contact tracing must be certified by the state or health department.
The school district and its track coach are not certified to perform contact tracing, but the Louisburg School District superintendent said contact tracing is not being done in the district.
“The Louisburg School District has never performed any contact tracing this entire school year," Dr. Brian Biermann said.
Biermann said the photos are a way to take attendance. While it's different from a sign-in sheet or seating chart in the classroom, he said it is all the same and can be used in the case of a COVID-19 exposure.
“If it’s a sports activity, they’re going to probably ask who was at your practice that day," Biermann said.
According to Biermann, the school district practices cohorting and has been since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define cohorting as a mitigation strategy that keep groups together to decrease chances for exposure.
Contact tracing is a tool that's used to investigate potential exposure after a COVID-19 case in confirmed.
Ellison said the groups of student-athletes at track practice change on a daily basis, so she wasn't satisfied with the district's answer.
“Why are they supporting it, all the while saying they don’t do it?" Ellison said. "We don’t contact trace, but we do support this for the purpose of contact tracing."
A spokesperson for the Miami County Health Department, which would perform contact tracing at Louisburg High School in the event of an outbreak, said in an email that "photos and/or video have never been provided to MCHD staff for COVID-19 contact tracing purposes from any of our schools or organizations, nor has MCHD requested such material to be used for contact tracing purposes."
Nonetheless, the coach will continue to take the group photos at practice as a way to track attendance, according to Biermann.
While Ellison supports the district's COVID-19 protocols overall, she wants the school board to weigh in on the photo portion.