Moore: Hanover's Double Standard

Hanover High students shouldn’t get a free pass on COVID-19 regulations.

by Chelsea Moore | 10/8/20 2:00am

On Tuesday afternoon, I was jogging through Hanover, swerving around people on the sidewalk and huffing and puffing through my sweat-soaked mask. As I made my way downtown and passed the Hanover High School soccer field, I slowed to a walking pace because I couldn’t believe my eyes. On both ends of the field, the women's soccer team was doing tackling drills. Each group had at least 20 people, and not a single person was wearing a mask. My own mask suddenly felt a lot more prominent. 

It seems a distinct double standard is taking shape. At first, I saw the discrepancies through athletic policies, including access limitations and group training protocol, but soon realized this double standard is not exclusive to sports teams. The town of Hanover is not holding itself to any of the same safety standards — including in academics — as those of the College. It is both unfair and unsafe that Hanover High School’s policies do not match those of the College.

As a student-athlete at Dartmouth, I am currently unable to practice with my team, even if I were to wear a mask. Despite living locally, I am not allowed to see my coach or use campus facilities like the gym and locker rooms. Dartmouth has prohibited all athletic competition this fall, implementing restrictions that follow the College guidelines. These restrictions include limiting practice participation to under 10 approved athletes, travel within only a 10-mile radius of campus and six feet social distancing, all while wearing a mask. Teams are partaking in a system that slowly phases in group activity, this week being the first of the phases, with only up to six hours of coach contact.

Meanwhile, Hanover High School has been holding unmasked sports practices and games since early September. While students and teachers must wear masks during school sessions, the school doesn’t mandate it for athletics, saying “athletes may remove masks while actively warming up and competing.” Players are allowed full contact with coaches, and coaches can hold a full practice schedule. On Sept. 22, the Hanover High Marauders played Goffstown High School, and photos show players unmasked, literally touching head to head. At senior night, the players gathered on the field to take photos without masks or social distancing. 

This double standard extends beyond athletics.

On and off campus, Dartmouth students must maintain a distance of six feet or more. In accordance with the town’s mask ordinance, the College mandates that masks are worn outdoors on campus and in Hanover. Gatherings are limited to nine people and are broken up by Safety and Security if the number exceeds that. On top of the three initial on-site COVID-19 tests during quarantine and the weekly tests thereafter, all students in the area must complete a daily temperature and self-assessment screening. Classes are almost universally online, and we are not allowed to travel outside the Upper Valley, even if we live off campus. 

At Hanover High School, students have to maintain only three feet of physical distance, and classes can have up to 25 people per room. Students do not partake in any mandatory testing. The high school students have the freedom to travel out of the Upper Valley as long as they stay within New England. 

In her column “Selfish Students,” Hanover town manager Julia Griffin wrote that the irresponsibility of Dartmouth students is putting Hanover residents in danger. There’s no denying that certain students are stepping out of line, but why ignore the other half of the town — the Hanover students themselves? Hanover High’s weaker regulations allow students to compete in athletic competitions and to travel freely. If we’re to follow Griffin’s line of reasoning, it’s not a stretch to say that Hanover students are putting the entire Hanover community at risk. And yet, we don’t hear town officials decrying them like they decry Dartmouth students.

The restrictions that the College puts on students seem largely designed to placate the town of Hanover. This goes for the College’s limits on travel, gatherings and students’ social lives. But Hanover fails to uphold the same standards for its own high school students. The double standard is glaring and unjustifiable. Hanover should hold its high school to the same safety standards as it expects of Dartmouth. I’m not arguing for a relaxation in Dartmouth regulations, but rather an equal playing field. In the end, we are all Hanover residents, and it’s time the town acts like it.