LCSD rescinds optional COVID-19 testing, accuses WCSD of bullying and coercion

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Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

While insisting that it was not in violation of any directive or guidelines, the Lyon County School District Board of Trustees Friday morning rescinded a Nov. 16 action that made COVID-19 testing voluntary for vaccinated student-athletes.

In taking its action, the Board and Superintendent Wayne Workman said the action was in response to what it called “bullying and coercion” by the Washoe County School District, which had refused to let its school play against Lyon County schools due to the district’s optional COVID-19 testing. Several games between schools from the two counties have already been postponed this week because WCSD refused to allow its teams to play against Lyon County schools.

Workman also said Washoe County informed other school districts that it would not compete in any of their events if Lyon County teams were involved.

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In one case, Trustee Phil Cowee said North Valley’s girls basketball team actually traveled to Dayton on Dec. 1 not knowing the game had been canceled. Cowee said the North Valleys bus dropped the players off at the school and left, and the players had to wait more than two hours in the Dayton gym for the bus to return to pick them up.

Superintendent Wayne working and the district’s legal counsel, Don Lattin, met with Washoe County School District administrators on Dec. 1 and with the Nevada Association of School Superintendents on Dec. 2, and Workman said it was confirmed both times that the district’s COVID-19 testing was in compliance with the governor’s Emergency Directive 048 and the Nevada interscholastic Activities Association Guidance 1 of the 2020-21 school year.

The NIAA Guidance 1, updated Nov. 23, states “The NIAA-sanctioned sports of Basketball, Football and Wrestling require testing of non-fully vaccinated Team Members and the return of testing results during each Competitive Week, effective with a team’s first contact with an opponent (scrimmage or contest).”

That guidance also requires each school district to send a testing and mitigation plan to the NIAA for approval, and it addresses how complaints by one district against another are to be handled.

The guidance reads: “In the case of complaints field (sic) by one member school district or school against another member school district or school, the NIAA will require the charged member school district or school to submit their testing and mitigation plan for review and approval if not already done so in advance. If, after an investigation, a determination is made that a member school district or school has not satisfied the requirements outlined in Directive 048 after having been charged by another member school district or school may result in disciplinary action according to Nevada Administrative Code 385B inclusive.”

” Never at any point was there a complaint received by the LCSD nor an investigation conducted by the NIAA as required in NIAA Guidance I for the 2020-2021 School Year,” Workman said.

NIAA interim Executive Director Donnie Nelson twice this week said he was unable to comment on the issue.

Several times during Friday’s meeting, board members reiterated their belief that the district had done nothing wrong, that it’s testing was in testing was in compliance with the state and the NIAA and the district was being bullied by WCSD.

“Unfortunately, this seems to be a situation of bullying over perception rather than any infraction,” Board President Holly Villines said.

Trustee Neal McIntyre, who made the motion on Nov. 16 to make the COVID-19 testing voluntary, made the motion Friday to rescind that action.

“The reason we changed this was to give our kids a voice,” he said. “I want to make this perfectly clear that I am not making this motion because Washoe County says we’re out of compliance. I’m making this motion because Washoe County is hurting or children by not allowing them to play.”

Following the board’s action, Workman read a statement in which he blasted WCSD, accusing of it discriminating and manipulating the actions of LCSD.

“This action was taken not because testing was in violation of anything, but to protect our students from any further discrimination by another school district,” Workman said. “For another school district to treat LCSD students as if they are dirty or tainted in some way is repulsive and disgusting at best. This unprecedented action of bullying and coercion against the LCSD without any facts, due process or investigation necessitates immediate action by the NIAA to ensure this does not happen to any other districts or students.”

Workman said there are no requirements for any school district to inform another district of the testing or vaccination status of any of its students.

“The LCSD wholeheartedly believes that this information is personal, private and protected,” Workman said. “No other school district, nor the NIAA, nor any governing bodies, have the right to know the vaccination, or testing status of another district’s students.”

Workman also said LCSD has requested multiple times that the Governor’s Office review the testing mandates for athletics and for extracurricular activities because Nevada is the only state still requiring it.

“This fell upon deaf ears multiple times until this board took action on Nov. 16,” he said. “Consequently, just yesterday we received word, official word, that the COVID-19 testing mandate will end on Feb. 26 after the winter season. I’m not saying that happened because of this board’s action, but I’m saying it happened after this board took their action.”

The following is the full text of Lyon County School District Superintendent Wayne Workman’s comments following the board’s action:

The Lyon County School District (LCSD) believes that all students and families should be able to use their agency to make choices for themselves. Although the LCSD completely understands that unusual circumstances such as a global pandemic necessitate emergency actions and directives to protect the public, those emergency actions and directives should be free from intentional discrimination and usurpation of individual agency. Sections 6 and 7 of Nevada Emergency Directive 048 was specifically written to discriminate against unvaccinated students and staff. Section 6 was also specifically written to discriminate against the more rural or small school districts as they are required to leave their counties at an exponentially higher rate than the two largest school districts to participate in extracurricular activities. This concern has been repeatedly voiced by multiple school districts only to be ignored, and most recently used by another school district to discriminate and manipulate the actions of the LCSD.

The LCSD has an approved COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation Plan on file with the NIAA as required by Emergency Directive 048 and the NIAA Guidance I for the 2020-2021 School Year. Even though the LCSD Board of Trustees took action on November 16, 2021, to make COVID-19 testing optional for unvaccinated students, they still remained in compliance with their approved plan. This is the case despite what another school district may assume is happening in the LCSD. This fact was also confirmed by NIAA administration in a meeting on the morning of December 1, 2021, and then again during the Nevada Association of School Superintendents (NASS) meeting on December 2, 2021. Never at any time did the LCSD prohibit our students from participating in any extracurricular activities.

The emergency directive and NIAA guidance require all school districts to implement their COVID-19 testing and mitigation plans. These documents also allow vaccinated students/staff, along with those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days, to be exempted from testing. There are no reporting requirements about individual testing, nor must one district disclose to another the testing status of any students/staff. Additionally, there are no requirements to report the vaccination status of students/staff. The LCSD wholeheartedly believes that this information is personal, private and protected. No other school district, nor the NIAA, nor any governing bodies have the right to know the vaccination or testing status of another district’s students. No other school district knows whether or not 100% of their students are vaccinated, had COVID-19 in the past 90 days, and/or tested for COVID-19 during their competitive week. School districts are simply required to implement their weekly testing programs according to the guidance and directives with no reporting obligations.

Unfortunately, another school district’s administration chose to bully, manipulate, and coerce the LCSD into disclosing this protected information by withholding their students from their obligated extracurricular activities with the LCSD. Additionally, they forbid LCSD students from coming to their obligated extracurricular activities in their schools. An email sent by another school district’s administration at 9:18 a.m. on December 2, 2021 reads as follows:

Dear Lyon County School District Administration,
Please be advised that Washoe County School District athletic teams will not be traveling to Lyon county, nor can Lyon county athletics travel to Washoe County.

In order to comply with Directive 048 and NIAA Guidance I, we must be able to confirm with the NIAA the testing and mitigation plan submitted by LCSD to the NIAA and approved by the NIAA prior to the November 16 LCSD Board decision presumably altering that plan. Until we can do that, we are unable to travel to LCSD for athletic competitions, nor can we host LCSD teams within Washoe County.

Although a plan was provided yesterday (12/1) regarding a LCSD plan and is being reviewed, there appears to be contradictory information. We sincerely hope that the NIAA can resolve this matter expeditiously.

Therefore games scheduled for December 2, 3, and 4th (below) will need to be rescheduled, as possible, unless a resolution can be made.

As stated earlier, the NIAA had confirmed an approved plan during the December 1st meeting. This school district’s administration had even received a copy of the LCSD plan and still chose to make their own assumptions about it having “contradictory information”. Then, before the December 2nd meeting was finished where it was again confirmed, this communication was sent. Never at any point was there a complaint received by the LCSD nor an investigation conducted by the NIAA as required in NIAA Guidance I for the 2020-2021 School Year. Additionally, there has never been any communication to the LCSD by the NIAA nor the Governor’s Office that the actions taken by the LCSD Board of Trustees on November 16, 2021, was in any way a violation of the directive or guidance. Despite all of this, another school district chose to impose their own sanctions on the LCSD based on assumptions and “presumably altering that plan”. Then in perhaps the most egregious act of bullying and coercion, another school district contacted other school districts in the state and told them that if they allowed LCSD students to participate in their extracurricular activities, then they would withhold their students from those activities as well. For another district to treat the LCSD’s students as if they are dirty or tainted in some way is repulsive and disgusting at best. This unprecedented action of bullying and coercion against the LCSD without any facts, due process, or investigation necessitates immediate action by the NIAA to ensure this does not happen to any other districts or students.

Because the LCSD cares so deeply about each individual student, the Board of Trustees voted at 10:00 a.m. on December 3, 2021 to rescind their action from their November 16, 2021 meeting which made COVID-19 testing optional for unvaccinated students. This action was taken not because the LCSD was in violation of anything, but to protect our students from any further discrimination by another school district. The LCSD
demands that the other school district immediately comply with their obligation to participate in the scheduled extracurricular activities and end their prohibition of our students entering their schools.

The Lyon County School District calls upon the Governor’s Office and the NIAA to immediately end the discriminatory and coercive directives which usurp the agency of our children simply because school districts remain an easy target upon which this authority may be exercised. The LCSD calls for local control as it has been provided to other governing bodies in the great State of Nevada. Please allow our students, families and staff the opportunity to choose for themselves how they may best navigate their own health and wellness.

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