‘Mask and snack break’ at US school sparks outrage

Viral video shows children made to sit on sidewalk in freezing temperatures as a Covid-19 precaution

A US school district has come under fire after a Twitter video showed elementary school children sitting outside on concrete in freezing weather for what was later described as a “mask and snack break.”

The viral video, which was posted on Tuesday by the Fairfax County Parents Association (FCPA) in Virginia, shows a teacher standing in the sunlight and reading a book to about 20 small children sitting on the sidewalk in front of their school. Most of the children are in the shade.

An unidentified woman’s voice in the video complains, “It is 24 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside, 24 degrees. This is absolutely unacceptable, unacceptable.” The children were later identified to be third graders at Waynewood Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, which means they were eight years old when the academic year began last August.

Video of the elementary school kids sitting in 24 degrees (that’s Fahrenheit, below freezing) at @waynewoodes today. This is Virginia, where kids don’t routinely wear down and wool. @Karen4Schools @FCPSSupt @fcpsnews pic.twitter.com/6scCWizHEy

— Fairfax County Parents Association (@FFXParentsAssoc) January 11, 2022

The Fairfax County Public Schools district responded to the Twitter video by explaining that the students were taking a “snack and mask break” and that they were outside for less than seven minutes. “Note that students do go outside for breaks in cold weather, but that time is limited, as was the case here,” it added.

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The response failed to allay the concerns of online critics, some of whom questioned how the children could have been brought outside, seated on the sidewalk, read a story and brought back into the school within seven minutes. Others argued that making the children eat their snack outside in the cold put them at a greater health risk than that posed by Covid-19.

“So they are safe from Covid but not from pneumonia,” one Twitter user said. Political strategist Rory Cooper asked, “Did the person who wrote this tweet take your mask and snack break outside today?”

The FCPA said the episode resulted from “poor leadership and confusing guidance to teachers,” arguing that the school should “get these little ones inside” during such cold weather.

A similar controversy arose last month, when a video posted on Twitter showed elementary school kids in Portland, Oregon, having to eat their lunch outside in cold weather while sitting on plastic buckets.

CHILD ABUSE: Kindergartners are forced to eat lunch outside in 40 degree weather at Capitol Hill Elementary School in Portland, Oregon.

They sit on buckets to social distance from their classmates. pic.twitter.com/KqFcliTFYf

— Katie Daviscourt?? (@KatieDaviscourt) December 8, 2021

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