‘In order for us to stay open’: Nevada Union requires vaccine or test following outbreak; protest occurred Monday morning | TheUnion.com

‘In order for us to stay open’: Nevada Union requires vaccine or test following outbreak; protest occurred Monday morning

Nevada Union High School students, parents, and families wait in line to show proof of having been vaccinated for COVID-19, or to get tested for the virus Saturday as a way to help combat an outbreak on campus. A number of students and community members planned protests in opposition to the requirement.
Photo: Elias Funez

Authorities responded Monday morning to Nevada Union High School after it was reported that a group had gathered there to protest, following the school’s announcement last week that students would need to either provide proof of full vaccination or perform a rapid test for COVID-19 prior to returning to school that day.

Nevada County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Andrew Trygg said in an email that the incident was reported at 9:01 a.m., and that it involved a group of between 25 and 30 people.

According to Trygg, the Sheriff’s Office response was requested by staff at the school “because the people were refusing to leave.”

Freedom of choice protesters walked onto the Nevada Union High School campus Monday morning to protest the school’s decision to test students who haven’t been fully vaccinated following a COVID-19 outbreak on campus.
Photo: Elias Funez

Some members of the group, consisting of both students and other community members, waved flags while others held signs bearing slogans including, “Say no to medical tyranny,” and “Freedom to choose.” The group first came onto campus, prior to being escorted out, and continued their demonstration on the Ridge Road sidewalk adjacent to the campus.

Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Brett McFadden described the incident as having upset some of the school’s students, after participants of the protest shouted at both staff and students. He went on to say that this behavior represented a minority of the group, and that the majority were respectful following being asked to move.

McFadden said that some of the concerns expressed by the group included not wanting their students to be tested for COVID-19 using a nasal test; that unvaccinated students were being singled out as the district did not require vaccinated students to be tested; and that some were under the false impression that testing was being required once or even twice per week.

Nevada County deputies work to remove a group of people from in front of the school’s testing site who were protesting Nevada Union High School’s mandates.
Photo: Elias Funez

Grass Valley resident Kayla Quinton, whose son is a student at Nevada Union, said she joined the group protesting at the school Monday because she was afraid that a COVID-19 test would be administered to her son without her permission. She stated that she had her son stay home from school that day for that reason.

“My biggest concern, like I said, is just making sure that my child isn’t pushed into something he doesn’t want just so he can go to class,” said Quinton.

Regarding parental consent for testing, McFadden said the district “will notify parents and families when testing is occurring.” He explained that, while consent forms signed by parents in order for their student to be tested remain valid for one year, the district will inform them if it decides to do any future testing or implement a regular testing process.

Wendy Willoughby, the parent of two Nevada Union students, said she had heard of the planned protest prior to arriving to campus Monday morning, and initially expecting it to be a student protest, found it “extremely disconcerting” that the group included adults.

“My first thought after getting my children to a place where I felt safe to drop them off was, ‘Why are these adults on a closed campus?” said Willoughby.

A group of about 30 people gathered along Ridge Road in front of Nevada Union High School Monday morning, protesting a decision by school officials requiring students to test for COVID-19 or provide vaccination status following a school outbreak.
Photo: Elias Funez
High schoolers and their families approach the front of Nevada Union High School on Saturday. Families were asked to come to campus either Saturday or Monday and provide documentation of student vaccination status and to perform a rapid COVID-19 test.
Photo: Elias Funez


An announcement sent out to district families late last week by Assistant Superintendent Dan Frisella states the district was implementing these measures at Nevada Union following a “significant uptick of on-campus cases this week” at the school.

According to McFadden, the outbreak at Nevada Union that triggered these measures on the part of the district involved having identified over 11 cases at the school from different families by last Wednesday morning, with that number quickly going on to climb to 30.

“And in order to stop that outbreak, and in order for us to stay open, we needed to implement testing and as many vaccines as possible,” said McFadden.

“So, this is really a way to address this current surge that’s happening at the high school here, and the surge mirrors that of what’s happening in Nevada County.”

From around 450 people tested at the school Saturday — with the testing open to not only Nevada Union students, but other district students and staff as well as student families — about 19 people tested positive, said McFadden.

According to McFadden, around 52 people were vaccinated at the school campus Saturday.

Freedom to choose protesters confront Nevada Union High School children on the front steps of the school as they arrive during the second week of classes Monday. A COVID-19 outbreak on the school’s campus prompted officials to begin testing students and ask for vaccination status.
Photo: Elias Funez
A freedom of choice protester’s sign reads, “Stop discriminating against unvaccinated” Monday morning at Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley.
Photo: Elias Funez

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com

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