Town, Health Dept. Rip Harris Field Graduation ‘Ceremony’, Large Party; Attendees Should Be Tested

Photo: Graduating students at Harris Field on Sunday. (credit: Instagram)

The director of the Belmont Health Department is condemning a pair of events held on Sunday, June 7 in which large numbers of Belmont High School students and adults staged an unsanctioned graduation celebration on school property and attended a house party in apparent violation of town and state health codes created to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Calling the actions “disrespectful and frustrating,” Health Department Director Wesley Chin said while Sunday was a time for big celebrations, “we just want to encouraged people to do the right thing during this difficult time.”

Chin is advising students and adults who attended these events to be tested for COVID-19 if they begin showing symptoms associated with the virus.

“It’s something we believe that is owned to the community to help keep everyone safe and healthy,” Chin told the Select Board at its virtual meeting on Monday, June 8.

Chin was informed of the events on Monday by concerned residents who viewed a number of photos and a video of the events circulating on the internet, which were characterized to Chin as reckless, grossly inappropriate and irresponsible during a pandemic.

Occurring soon after the end of the broadcast of the Belmont High graduation which was held virtually due to the pandemic, photos on the social media platform Instagram showed about 50 students and adults at Harris Field and at a large outdoor party with approximately 70 residents held Sunday night in which rules concerning social distancing, a limit on groups of more than 10 and wearing masks were ignored.

Note: The identity of those in the photos and names found online are being protected as they are not facing any charges.

The photos show typical graduation-type scenes with lineups of friends and sports teammates in caps and gowns linking arms and posing. Several of the young men are seen with cigars – an annual Belmont tradition at the post-ceremony family reunion – and in one video a bottle with carbonated liquid is opened by a student and the contents sprayed on his fellow students.

Photos from the party also shows students drinking alcohol in the presence of adults. While Massachusetts General Laws allows people under the age of 21 to consume alcohol on private premises with the consent of a parent or grandparent, that permission does not include non-family members.

Smoking and alcohol are banned at Harris Field.

The events come a few weeks after a large number of parents and some students protested a joint decision by the district and town limiting graduation celebrations to remote and virtual events due to safety and health concerns due to the COVID-19 virus.

Chin said the seemingly preplanned event at Harris Field mocked the long hours spent by 10 town departments, including fire, police, public works, and the school administration “who planned a safe and thoughtful graduation,” said Chin.

The Select Board joined Chin in denouncing the activity of the participants.

“To ignore the very reasonable asks that we’re making of people is just a bad practice … especially if parents are facilitating large groups who are not respecting social distancing is pretty bad,” said Chair Roy Epstein.

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Comments

  1. KateAnne says

    Such a warped double standard! LGBT festival and BLM rallies allowed but a simple graduation gathering isn’t?! So many miserable people here who spend an awful lot of time worrying about what everyone else is doing so they can judge, criticize and spew their hatred. You’re all disgusting individuals who should be ashamed of yourselves!

  2. Rich Clifford says

    If people are allowed to gather in protest then they should be allowed to gather in celebration. The virus doesn’t skip over protests because people deem it necessary to exercise their first amendment rights…
    Did the above poster hoping that graduation celebrants “get what they deserve” make the same comment about protesters? I tend to doubt it.

    • Julia says

      What is the purpose of this graduation event? To make a small number of individuals feel good and happy? Yes, celebrating the accomplishment of graduation from high school is important. But it is not more important than the health and well-being of the general public.

      What’s the purpose of the protests? To raise awareness of an issue that is killing members of the general public and advocate for reform. Racism is a pandemic in that it is pervasive and causes death. Just because you’re not personally affected by an issue doesn’t mean it’s not an issue.

  3. concerned citizen says

    High School Graduation happens once in a lifetime ….Graduates can’t celebrate their accomplishments but Protests and Gay Parades….are ok in Belmont …hummmm

    • Alex says

      BHS GRAD 2010. Graduating is an important accomplishment, once in a life time sure, but wouldn’t it be counter the point to attend large gatherings during a pandemic that have no immediate benefit to anyone (unlike protests, and pride) that may actually kill you or those around you….

      Anyone on this claiming that they cant imagine a grad celebrating at a later time has absolutely lost sense of reality, and general context…. the entitlement is clear as day.

  4. BHS grad says

    As a BHS grad (‘92) I am both disappointed and unsurprised to see this kind of behavior coming from the same entitled crowd as ever. Angry, as well, because my folks still live there, not far from where these heedless people chose to perform their disregard for the rules. At a time when the pandemic is still on the rise (perhaps not in your particular neighborhood), when black and brown people in Minneapolis and other places are being shot with rubber bullets for stepping outside their homes, and when front line workers and their families are living in daily fear of contracting the virus, these people choose to broadcast their smug, self-satisfied privilege to the world. Way to represent your town. It makes me glad I don’t live there anymore.

  5. Thomas Mason says

    Now do the BLM protest held last week on Common Street near the Unitarian Universalist church.

    • Dan C. says

      This is honestly a very insensitive and immature comment. I would recommend being more mindful and conscientious when joking about these things considering the turmoil occurring right now! Dont plaster problematic and unfunny comments on the internet if your butthurt about graduation just like everyone else is 🙂 check your privilege.

      • Jon Dean says

        I did check my privilege. Turns out I cant go to the turf with 40 people but its ok when 200+ people go to protest in Belmont Center. Such a double standard

  6. Karyn Miller-Medzon says

    I don’t know which of my reactions to the immature, selfish and entitled behavior of these graduates and their families is stronger: disgust or outrage.

    We’re in the midst of a pandemic where 110,000 people in this country have died, and Massachusetts has lost 7300 people, As Anthony Fauci said this week, “This is my worst nightmare” — it’s not close to being over. And I can tell you as a journalist covering this pandemic and the wife of a front line worker –both of us in full quarantine to avoid any possibility of infecting our fellow-community members — there will be health repercussions to this behavior.

    Do the people who attended these celebrations know more than the health officials who spend their days treating patients, studying spread and implementing precautions?

    Do they think that they are immune to spreading Covid-19 to vulnerable family and community members?

    Do they think that they, somehow are OWED an in-person graduation party any more than the 7300 people who have died in this state, and 10s of thousands of people who have been hospitalized deserved to stay healthy?

    Let’s look at some recent similar parties. One in Vermont over Memorial Day weekend has now resulted in 60 known transmissions; a graduation pool party in Arkansas was responsible for the governor declaring a second wave of coronavirus after multiple transmissions; parties in Colorado, Missouri, Alabama and elsewhere have resulted in hundreds of cases and at least 10 reported deaths.

    Do these families not understand the threat? Here in Belmont, the Belmont Manor nursing care facility lost 50 people (at last count). How do those vulnerable people get infected? Generally from healthcare workers who are infected in their communities and bring it into these facilities. How mind-numbingly insensitive it is to take any actions that could spread this virus in a community already hard hit.

    I want to remind the people who thought that having a party was more important than protecting their community that the front line workers who are treating Covid-19 patients don’t have the opportunity to go to parties, or the grocery store for that matter. As long as there are infections…and the numbers are no longer declining in this state….they will continue to expose themselves to the disease, quarantining at home when not at work. The fact that people are knowingly prolonging this situation shows a stunning lack of empathy for people who will ultimately be affected by your actions.

    And finally, to the parents: REALLY? That was the example and graduation send-off you wanted to give your sons and daughters? Telling them it’s okay to violate town rules during a pandemic because you WANT to? That having a party is worth endangering your community because it would be disappointing not to have it? That you’re smarter than infectious disease doctors, epidemiologists, public health researchers and physicians? Just so your kids won’t be ‘disappointed’?

    You know what’s disappointing? Catching Covid-19 and being on a respirator. And losing your elderly parent. And thinking that you won’t get the illness because you’re young and healthy, only to find yourself in the ICU. Or working day after day caring for patients who are infected because others were too selfish to follow the rules that were put into place for public safety.

    Karyn Miller-Medzon

  7. Chester Rd resident says

    Typical of Belmont “entitled” parents that cater to their kids. Especially the individual that had the party at her home…even went as far as renting a porta-potty for the driveway. Wonder if she got a permit for that and if so how was that approved by the town?

    Let’s hope they get what they deserve.

    • Carlo says

      With all the protests and looting going on with them not wearing masks and not social distancing, you’re complaining about a kids once in a lifetime chance to enjoy their high school graduation? You need to get a life and focus on your issues because you definitely have some issues. I believe McLeans is located in Belmont, why don’t you check yourself in.

      • Nora says

        This response is unbelievable and appalling.

        1. If you did your research, you’d know that protestors are taking great care to wear masks and use hand sanitizer while standing for basic human rights. To demonize a fight for justice is embarrassing and a bad look on your part.

        2. Excusing one person’s bad behavior (this decision by Belmont students and their parents) by pointing out the ‘wrongdoings’ of another (looting), is a juvenile tactic. Not only do you have no right to tell somebody how they are allowed to react to hundreds of years of oppression, but it has nothing to do with the morality and legality of the situation at hand, which is;

        3. High school graduation is ceremonial. They did the work and received the diploma – that is great. It doesn’t mean they can underage drink on public property and jeopardize the health of their community without being held accountable. Belmont High students aren’t the only ones living in this pandemic. We all have had things taken away, be thankful it’s not your life.

        4. On that note, because you want to bring up BLM, the protestors are fighting for people to be able to graduate and have even a fraction of the privileges you so casually complain about. Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and countless others will never be able to receive their diplomas because of police brutality and a system that refuses to hold their murderers accountable.

        5. Certainly not the most important aspect of your comment, but bringing up McLeans as a way to shut somebody up for talking about important points that you belittle as “issues” is pathetic. I hope you can reflect on your choices in future public conversations to avoid publishing such embarrassing comments

        • Julia says

          Thank you for taking the time to write out this reply. I’m embarrassed to see so much ignorance in these comments. Police brutality is a life and death issue. Racism is a national pandemic that leads to death. People aren’t protesting to have fun. These parents and young adults should be ashamed of themselves as should anyone comparing this stunt with protests for black lives matter.

          • Chester Rd resident says

            Well said Nora and Julia… Wouldn’t want to stoop their level regarding the McLeans comment….

            Again….Hope the town does their due diligence and they get what they deserve.

            I could hear the party from my home and saw the “parent” who was also a “bit” tipsy…and that’s being kind…..

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