Middle School mother upset kids will not be allowed outside during eclipse

A missed opportunity, that’s what a mother of Lake Travis Middle School students said about not letting students outside on Monday during the solar eclipse.

“We can teach these kids safety in gym class, we can teach them lab safety for science, they all sign those forms every year, how in the world as an education institution can we not teach our kids safety for viewing the eclipse.” Liz Fowler said her jaw hit the floor when she got this email from the principal of Lake Travis Middle School:

“Dear LTMS Parents and Guardians,

As you may already know, on Monday, August 21, North America will experience an eclipse of the sun.  According to NASA, the path where the moon will completely cover the sun will stretch from Oregon to South Carolina.  Observers outside this path can expect to see a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun's disk.  While this event will present a unique educational experience, our commitment to student safety is paramount.  As a result, district administration has provided the following protocols for our campus on Monday, August 21:

  • Because the authenticity and quality of ‘solar eclipse eyeglass’ or ‘eclipse goggles’ cannot be guaranteed, outdoor viewing of the eclipse by students with glasses or goggles is strictly prohibited. There are many reports of potentially unsafe glasses or goggles.  Furthermore, the unsafe viewing of the eclipse can result in serious injury and damage to the eye.  Additionally, we cannot guarantee that every student will view the eclipse in a safe manner.
  • As an alternative to outdoor viewing, teachers have the option to broadcast the eclipse via live stream to be provided by NASA.
  • We will also be showing this live broadcast on the screen during all three lunches.
  • All outdoor activity between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. will be limited; this includes PE and athletics classes. We will make alternate plans to restructure activities during this time to take place inside the gyms for PE and athletics.

It is our hope this event will serve as a wonderful experience for our students in a safe and secure environment.  We appreciate your understanding and support. “

Fowler said she even sent her two middle schoolers to school with shoe boxes sure they would make their own eclipse viewers just like she did back in 1979. She sent this letter to the school district asking them to reconsider allowing students to go outside and watch the celestial event:

“Dear Educators:

Please pardon this mass email, but I must respond to the information I received this evening regarding LTISD's policy regarding the eclipse on Monday.

I cannot be the only parent who finds the prohibition of our kids from viewing the eclipse to be bizarre and an egregious waste of an opportunity for scientific learning. I know I'm a 70s kid, but back in the day we made shoebox eclipse viewers and got out there. We learned about safety, and I don't recall anyone burning their retinas. I actually sent my middle schoolers to school with shoeboxes today thinking their science teachers would surely be having the classes make eclipse viewers... And then got the email copied below, just after learning that the same policy is being applied at the high school for Monday. I'm stunned by this!

LTISD students have science classes every day -- every other day in high school. The eclipse is a major scientific event and should be incorporated into curriculum. While not every child's science class coincides with the timing of the eclipse, classes could rotate outside with adequate supervision for safe eclipse viewing. Watching it on TV is simply NOT an equivalent for the actual experience. This is like watching Richard Simmons videos for PE class -- because if the kids were to get up and actually experience the exercise themselves, they might get hurt. Absurd! My high schooler takes welding classes that put her at exponentially higher risk for injury than the eclipse that she will be prohibited from viewing on Monday.

This plan reeks of a failure to plan at all for this rare and wonderful event. The Eanes school district is offering its students opportunities both for outdoor viewing and for viewing the NASA feed -- it can be done! I'm so very disappointed that I send my children to school for an education, including a scientific education, and they are being specifically prohibited by the Lake Travis ISD from taking active part in this perfect opportunity for scientific learning in the natural world. Eclipses do not happen every day, and they have been some of the most memorable events in my own education. Please find an appropriate way to allow students to participate in experiencing the eclipse at school on Monday. I know that many parents, like myself, would gladly sign a waiver of liability, just as we do for any field trip, to protect the school, in exchange for the children being able to participate in learning about and actively viewing the eclipse with appropriate safety measures and supervision -- at school!”

Marco Alvarado is with the Lake Travis Independent School District, “After looking at this very closely we know this is going to be an incredible educational opportunity for our students, but we can't overlook student safety.” He said with 10,200 students across nine different campuses and fake glasses circulating they couldn't take the risk. “Just by looking at it for two seconds, you can damage your eye, permanent damage. We know that there are many reports of these fake glasses or counterfeit glasses so rather than risking our students, we said let's take the upmost precaution, and not allow students outdoors with these glasses during that time,” he said.

Alvarado said it's up to principals and teachers to decide if going outside with the pinhole shoebox is an option for a science class or a lesson they may be working on. The other option for teachers is staying inside and watching the eclipse live on the NASA feed. Fowler said it's a missed opportunity not seeing this rare event with their own eyes, protected of course. “It strikes me as kind of bizarre that for my kids to have this educational opportunity I actually have to take them out of school, it doesn't make any sense
What about the parents who can't get off work, it's not right, it's not fair to the kids,” Fowler said.