After a Columbia Public Schools (CPS) Board of Education meeting on Dec. 14, CPS administration is scrambling to find new solutions for a transition to in-person classes by updating social distancing guidelines and closely monitoring the Boone County 14-day case rate. With a student body that refuses to mitigate the exponential increase of cases in the city, The Bearing News staff asked a key question: does CPS administration have a responsibility to report events that violate city and county social distancing guidelines?
CPS administrators have a responsibility to teach, but more importantly an obligation to protect, a reason why they’re required to serve as mandated reporters. After a “fake-homecoming” dance for RBHS juniors on Nov. 20, which administrators knew about after the event occured, enraged parents, and students spoke out on social media platforms only to be met by silence. It’s obvious RBHS administration has turned a blind-eye towards the irreversible actions of the students, but also the school’s parent-teacher association, which some parent members helped organize the gathering.
Every month, CPS superintendent Dr. Peter Stiepleman attends a regular session meeting to present COVID-19 conditions and advise the Board of Education members on which actions are appropriate for the current case rate, specifically on votes about a return to in-person learning, a date tentatively set for Jan. 19. Each meeting is open to public comment from members of the community, and each time, countless parents and students lash out at board members, demanding an in-person return as soon as possible.
If students in the RBHS community are not willing to do what it takes to return to desks in a classroom, like condemn gatherings by its own community, or if CPS administrators refuse to step up as leaders and condemn and report gatherings that violate social distancing guidelines, CPS schools will not open.
On top of irresponsible actions on behalf of the student body, the Country Club of Missouri (CCMO) is by no means innocent. Before the Nov. 20 dance, CCMO received citations and fines from the City of Columbia for violating social distancing guidelines, but only after multiple public complaints. After the City of Columbia pressed charges, CCMO continued to operate in a pandemic-less dystopia, putting thousands of Columbians at risk of contracting COVID-19.
The RBHS community does have a heightened responsibility to look after each other—to protect each other—a value not achieved in the status quo. Students and faculty share the desire to return to school, regardless if gatherings stop. So, instead of allowing students to host parties and ignore social distancing guidelines, CPS administrators should take action, whether it be a social media post or press release sent to families, that condemns these gatherings. When CPS administrators step up and speak out against gatherings like ones that occurred at CCMO, only then can Columbia truly fight against the virus and lower its cases.