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NJ school official responds to virtual learning complaints by shaming parent

Written by on February 15, 2021

Following repeated virtual learning complaints from a  New Jersey parent, a school official fired back with an email shaming that mom.

“We know that parents and students are not following the same CDC guidelines that you continue to share with us that detail the importance of social distancing and mask wearing,” assistant superintendent of Middlesex Borough schools Paul Rafalowski wrote, according to a Feb. 11 email obtained by NJ Advance Media. “Case in point, we were provided a number of photos that illustrate the precise reason our school community remains in Phase 1 (virtual).”

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The photos attached in the email reportedly show the unidentified parent in question with four other adults and 16 children in close proximity without masks while sledding. In addition to community behavior, Rafalowski cited case numbers in the borough since January as the reason for not returning to in-person classes. 

“Bottom line, we will not subject our school community to the potential risk and exposure that results from the blatant failure to follow the same guidelines you are asking us to reference,” Rafalowski added.

Representatives for the Middlesex School District did not immediately return FOX News’ request for comment. 

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The parent, whose name was redacted from the email sent to NJ Advance Media, told  Patch.com that Rafalowski “targeted an outspoken parent by sending her photos of her and kids outside while sledding during the snow storm.” 

The email has since been shared with other members of the community, prompting backlash from parents who sent messages to the school board and spoke at last week’s board meeting. The parents aruge their children did nothing wrong and that Rafalowski unfairly targeted and retaliated against parents for their opposition to virtual learning policies. 

“My son is one of the 16 pictured. He is 7-years-old. He was outside. Snow sledding. With some friends. On private property,” Middlesex Borough parent Roger Sanchez reportedly wrote in an email to members of the borough’s council and school board.

Sanchez told the Patch that his breath was “taken away” upon seeing the photos.

“I hope a parent never has to feel how I felt,” Sanchez added. “The kids were running around, out playing in the snow outdoors. They posed for a photo. The point is a government body should never be allowed to document the lives of private citizens and their children.”

District Superintendent Frederick Williams defended Rafalowski, explaining that neither official knew the names of the children in the photos and that the assistant superintendent had blurred kids’ faces before sending his email. Rafalowski’s email said the photos were “sent to us as evidence to validate our concern” after they were posted on Facebook.

“This (email) was about, ‘Let’s wear face coverings. Let’s reduce the spread,’” Williams told NJ Advance Media. “None of my administrators target children or retaliate.”

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Middlesex Mayor John Madden told NJ Advance Media that sending out the photos was an improper response.

“The pictures that were sent around were very inappropriate,” Madden said. “I find it very unacceptable and very unprofessional.”

He added that last week’s borough council meeting was flooded with calls from frustrated parents demanding the resignations of school board members.

However, while Madden said that he feels “very bad for the parents,” noting they are “very passionate about their kids getting back to school” and are “reaching out in frustration,” he explained that there “isn’t any action we can take.”

“We have to abide by the laws,” he said.

A representative for Madden did not immediately return FOX News’ request for comment.

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Middlesex Borough started with all remote classes in September and offered hybrid instruction for a few weeks in November. The plan to return to hybrid instruction in January was postponed. The Patch reported that Williams is currently aiming for a Feb. 22 reopening date under  hybrid model. 

“We want our children back in school. We don’t want them to be home all the time,” Williams told NJ Advance Media. “It’s not the same environment and the current environment is becoming extremely stressful for everyone.”

Middlesex County reported 115 new COVID-19 cases and two related deaths on Monday, bringing the county totals to 66,058 COVID-19 cases and 1,768 related deaths, respectively.

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