A nine-year-old Black boy sneezed twice in class and was partially suspended until he could produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Lancinet Keita is a second-grader at John Bishop Elementary School in Arlington, Massachusetts. Because he sneezed twice in class, Lancinet’s teacher sent him to the school nurse. She called the boy’s father, who was ordered to retrieve the boy immediately.

Besides the two sneezes, Lancinet had no other symptoms of COVID-19. Usually, a fever is the first indication that someone must isolate for the safety of all. But in the community of Arlington, where Blacks are a small minority of the population, inequality exists.

Lancinet told the nurse that he didn’t feel sick. It is unclear if she even checked his temperature.

“I sneezed two times, then the teacher told me to go to the nurse,” said Lancinet Keita. “I was thinking I didn’t have anything, just a couple sneezes.”

When Thierno Keita arrived to pick up Lancinet, he and his boy were reported to be in good health. Besides a couple of sneezes, Lancinet had no other flu-like symptoms.

“And I checked his temperature: everything was perfect,” Keita said. Like a worried father, he repeatedly checked to make sure that his boy did not have a fever.

Keita will ensure his son gets a COVID-19 test as soon as possible, so this bureaucratic issue won’t stop his son from receiving the best education possible.

Leaders at Bishop Elementary School confirmed that Lancinet was sent home from school on Tuesday because “he displayed COVID-19 related symptoms.”

The school’s statement continued, “This decision was made both out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with district protocols related to COVID-19. This isolated incident is not indicative of any need for wider concern of COVID-19 exposure. Per district protocols, the student will either have to produce a negative COVID-19 test, written documentation from a health care provider stating it is an alternative illness, or be symptom-free for ten days following the start of the symptoms.”

Massachusetts was struck hard and early by the coronavirus. The state has seen more than 9,000 deaths from the virus as well as more than 12 million confirmed cases. Massachusetts is among the worst states when it comes to coronavirus deaths.

Residents are concerned that students will bring the virus into the classroom. Because parents rely on school and childcare centers so they can go to work, the economy depends on America’s education system. If it collapses, the economy will collapse.

However, it must be asked whether there was any racial bias in this incident. Was Lancinet sent home for sneezing due to unperceived biases against Black people? It’s possible. But we wouldn’t know unless a white boy is allowed to stay in class because of a couple of sneezes.

Other Massachusetts residents confirmed that officials are taking COVID-19 seriously to protect people.

“My son sniffled his nose a couple of times and was sent home for ten days,” one Boston CBS reader wrote. “They aren’t messing around.”

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