PMHS forbids staff from showing presidential inauguration live, citing threats of violence, reduced bell schedule

Pelham Memorial High School students attending classes in-person Wednesday will not be able to watch the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, despite the fact that President Donald Trump’s swearing-in was shown live to secondary students four years ago and PMHS students on the virtual schedule can watch at home.

“While it remains an act of civic and national engagement to view the presidential inauguration, any lesson that requires photos, videos or text from the inauguration will be taught after Wednesday,” Principal Mark Berkowitz said in an email sent to students on Tuesday. “Students who seek to watch the inauguration live will have an excused absence in the afternoon but should have a parent/guardian proactively send an email to PMHS attendance clerk Karen Mann.”

Berkowitz gave no reason in the email for the decision.

“The district has decided not to show the event live due to the already abbreviated bell schedule and limitations caused by Covid-19 as well as concerns about the possibility of violence being shown live in classrooms given reports of threats made in recent weeks,” said school district spokesman Alexander Wolff in an 8 p.m. email Tuesday night after the Pelham Examiner inquired on Monday. “We recognize the value of covering and showing the inauguration in classes, therefore once the inauguration has concluded, teachers can/will use recordings/photos etc. from the event to cover it in their classes as appropriate.”

This is a change in policy from the inauguration of Trump in 2016, as Pelham Middle School and PMHS students watched the swearing-in ceremony on a teacher-by-teacher basis.