UMass Amherst suspends 3 students over maskless photo at off-campus party

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A Massachusetts college suspended three freshmen for reportedly violating COVID-19 health policy after a photo of the trio, maskless at a party off-campus, was passed to school administrators.

The UMass Amherst students – all women – were pictured outside and without masks at a large gathering, according to reports. The school first removed the students from campus, then later cut off their remote lesson access.

The women also were not allowed to take their final exams, rendering the school year moot and forcing them to reapply next year.

A view across the outside courtyard of the W.E.B Dubois library toward the Campus Center Hotel on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts, a public institution.

A view across the outside courtyard of the W.E.B Dubois library toward the Campus Center Hotel on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts, a public institution.
(iStock)

“It’s heartbreaking,” the mother of one of the students told WBZ-TV. The cost for one semester is $16,000 — a fee the families will not see refunded as part of the punishment.

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The school released a statement saying the students received “a number of public health messages” that stressed the importance of following public health protocols, as well as “the consequences for not complying.”

UMass banned outdoor exercise and implemented strict stay-at-home orders in February, according to Newsweek. In March, the school suspended around 200 students after a large party, which the administration said “posed an immediate health risk to other residents.”

It is not clear when the latest incident occurred, calling into question under what “public health protocols” the school has punished the students. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker have recently altered outdoor mask guidance, saying that fully vaccinated individuals can gather outside in small groups without vaccinated people.

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Also unclear is the vaccination status of the students who were suspended, as well as others attending the party.

UMass Amherst did not respond to a Fox News request for comment.

Another parent, who also did not wish to be identified, said the student was a “valedictorian and class president of her high school. … She did everything right.”

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The students have not spoken publicly about the matter, but their parents have filed a lawsuit against the college. Chief among their complaints is that the school has acted unevenly in its punishment.

The school issued strict guidelines in February after a surge in cases at the time, restricting students to their residences outside of necessary activities, such as eating, getting COVID testing or attending medical appointments. The school also canceled all campus athletic competitions and practices.

However, the UMass hockey team won the national championship in April, celebrating with what appeared to be a large gathering upon arriving back at campus. Pictures and videos from the event appear to show the team and other students not wearing masks or socially distancing.

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One of the parents bringing the suit said he just wants the school to be “equitable and fair.”

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