AUSTIN, Texas — The State has temporarily stopped making data on COVID-19 in schools available online because of inaccuracies, according to the Department of State Health Services website.
Now advocates complain the information the State has published so far isn’t specific enough and isn’t even reliable.
"We hear from a lot of school employees that they want to know what's going to be on their campus," Rob D'Amico, communications director for Texas American Federation of Teachers, said.
D’Amico said the State isn’t being transparent enough about COVID-19 in our schools.
Data published by the Department of State Health Services and the Texas Education Agency last week shows cases of COVID-19 in public schools have increased significantly since the beginning of August – nearly 7,000 recorded cases so far among staff and students in Texas public schools.
DSHS only posted cases by district, but found several problems with even that limited information. Now, it’s gone from the website. A spokesperson sent a joint statement from TEA and DSHS, saying, “The agencies ... will post an updated report as soon as possible.”
"That kind of transparency is needed for people to feel safe and confident in their local officials," D'Amico said.
But now, most larger school districts in Central Texas have started publishing their own COVID-19 data.
According to reports from the top 25 largest school districts in Central Texas, eight school districts have more than 10 cases of the virus reported so far.
Some of those, like Round Rock ISD, show cases by individual schools. But some districts only publish active cases, while others publish cumulative cases. And some have cases dating back to July, while others only start reporting in September.
Meanwhile, Fredericksburg, Taylor, Giddings and Llano school districts haven’t published any information online.
"Some refused to give any information at all, which in my opinion and our opinion as a teachers union is a violation of the law and certainly of teacher guidance," D'Amico said.
Rob and his colleagues at Texas AFT have started publishing their own collection of COVID-19 data in schools while they wait for the State to do the same.
But a spokesperson from DSHS said in a statement, “DSHS is reviewing requests for school-level data to determine whether additional information can be shared while complying with the applicable privacy laws and rules.”
"There is a little bit more that can get reported," D'Amico said. "But certainly there's nothing about names or specific, particularly not titles or anything like that."
While we wait for the State to republish correct information by school district, KVUE has formally requested school-specific data from DSHS and TEA under the Texas Public Information Act and also requested they publish it online.
Meanwhile, we’ve started tracking some of this ourselves.
You can check if your child's school districts have reported cases of COVID-19 by clicking on any of the links below.
PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: