Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) Board Chair Christiane Buggs caught parents’ ire for continuing to keep schools closed in light of her activities in recent months. Shortly before the ongoing school closure began in November, Buggs hosted an election watch party and then vacationed internationally.
Buggs defended the board’s initial decision in the fall to adjust all schools to virtual learning. She described it as a necessity, explaining how her own father was concurrently battling COVID-19. Buggs explained that he was infected while working at one of their middle schools. She stated that preventing the spread was paramount to in-person learning, which she described as a “convenience.”
“How dare you. How dare us. And I intentionally placed periods at the end of those rhetorical questions because we as a society place convenience over the lives of the seemingly expendable,” wrote Buggs. “‘Super spreading’ is not my argument. 1 person almost dying is [my argument for closing schools] and I’ll argue that nothing is worth that all day…”
A little over two weeks before leading the board’s decision to close the schools last November, Buggs traveled internationally for a vacation. In a since-deleted Instagram post, Buggs shared that she’d gone to Saint Lucia – an Eastern Caribbean island.
“St.Lucia was a perfect place to reset,” wrote Buggs. “Reconnect with every bit of this Black Girl Magic. Ready for the battles ahead!”
One Twitter user posted a screenshot of the original post by Buggs prior to its deletion. Following community outcry over her vacation prior to the school closure decision, Buggs made her Instagram page private.
— Amy Pate (@aqpate) January 17, 2021
Additionally, Buggs hosted a party at a restaurant to watch the Election Day events.
Left: Metro Nashville Public Schools board chair Christiane Buggs argues for keeping schools closed on Twitter.
Right: A promo for an in-person Election Day Watch Party hosted by Buggs at a local restaurant / night club. pic.twitter.com/y4kOylGGdg
— Matt Malkus (@malkusm) January 17, 2021
An advocacy group for reopening schools, Let Nashville Parents Choose, accused Buggs of hypocrisy.
“Middle and HS [high schools have] been shut out of school for 300+ days. Elem[entary schools] got 5 short weeks. 1 week before closing ES [elementary schools,] our board chair travelled to the Caribbean! She’s blamed the public for closures saying we’re not following the rules,” wrote the group. “When a loved one had a scary brush with Covid, board chair had audacity to blame proponents for #openschools insinuating our privilege would cause deaths…never mind her hosting a 2-4-1 daiquiri party at a hookah lounge or flying internationally!”
The Tennessee Star reached out to Buggs regarding the board’s decision following her recent travels and social ventures. Buggs didn’t respond by press time.
Buggs told other reporters that she empathized with parents’ frustrations and children’s struggles, pointing out that she’d resumed in-person meetings and arranged public commentary since September to open communication up as much as possible.
“Taking personal events in my life that occurred nearly three months ago when our youngest learners were already back in classrooms is an unfortunate distraction from the issues and challenges we face today,” stated Buggs. “Though I appreciate being held accountable for my actions, I followed safety protocols to the greatest extent possible and my activities were well within the guidelines adopted by the city.”
Last Friday, MNPS announced that they would continue with distance learning until the community risk score drops below 7. The risk score is a composite calculation of city data on transmission rates, the 7-day positivity rate, and especially the 7-day average of new cases per 100,000 citizens.
At the time of press, the risk score sits over 8. A score of 6 or below is required to attain a blended learning environment, and 3 or below allows for in-person.
MNPS officials stated that they are relying on data from the Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) to determine when schools may resume in-person learning. No timeline currently exists for when children could return to classrooms.
– – –