Families of students frustrated by lack of contact tracing, information following TN teacher’s death


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – COVID-19 is gripping classrooms throughout Tennessee and taking lives along the way. But frustration is building among parents who say school districts aren’t doing enough to inform families of COVID-19 exposures.

“I just don’t know if they have understood the gravity of what steps should be taken in this type of situation,” said Mary McNamara.

Her grandson is an elementary student in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School system. After learning his teacher died of COVID, she now wants some answers.

“Provide some leadership and some direction if someone dies from COVID and potentially infects 30 first graders — let’s start with that,” she said.

Mary added, her family was not informed of the teacher’s death, or her grandson’s possible exposure to COVID-19 until they turned on the TV.

“We heard about her passing from COVID from the news story that you did and when my daughter-in-law called the principal because she was, all of the sudden, of course, alarmed about exposure, about contract tracing about isolation about being responsible.”

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The Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools district says it’s their understanding the Tennessee Department of Health, “is conducting all contact tracing, and potential close contacts are contacted by a third-party company, contracted through TDH; MCHD is not contact tracing.”

“If she had a positive COVID test in the last 10 days, 4 days, was it months ago? We don’t know, we know that she passed away,” said McNamara.

But the school district says they are limited on what information they can provide saying:

“Due to federal laws (FERPA and HIPAA), CMCSS cannot confirm the names of positives or potential close contacts to anyone.”

McNamara said steps could’ve been taken to keep more people in the community safe. “My daughter-in-law said, I would not have gone out on Labor Day with my kids to the zoo, I wouldn’t have been out and about if I knew there was a potential exposure I would’ve been monitoring, watching and being very careful,” she said.

The grandmother, whose son is deployed with the military, says the family is overwhelmed and angry. “They have school shooting drills, they understand the gravity there, they have fire drills they understand the gravity there—but what is the process moving forward for this — that’s what I want to know.”

McNamara adds her heart goes out to those impacted by the tragic death — and says her grandchild loved his teacher.

At this point, the Clarksville-Montgomery County district is accepting self-reporting of COVID-19 cases.

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