Push back: Nevada Joint Union school board delays vote on vaccine mandate resolution
Pat Seeley, president of the Nevada Joint Union High School District Board of Trustees, sought to adopt a resolution expressing opposition to a proposed state vaccine mandate for students and staff.
Instead, after board discussion, trustees opted for a committee to create a new resolution.
Introducing the draft resolution at Wednesday’s board meeting, Seeley referred to a letter addressed to Gov. Gavin Newsom by Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay in November. That letter mentioned a survey of local students and staff that found 20% of parents said they would pull their students from school if there is no vaccine exemption offered, in addition to 15% of staff.
After stating that she had spoken to a number of parents who did not want to vaccinate their children, and reading from a letter written by a Nevada County doctor who opposes vaccine mandates for students, Seeley said her hope was that the governor will “give parents choices” about student vaccination.
“If he doesn’t, if he mandates vaccinations for all students and all staff, which I hope he doesn’t, then I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” said Seeley. “But I’m trying to be a little proactive here. I’m not trying to cause a lot of controversy, but I would like to see our students and our parents stay in this district.”
Also included on the board agenda, attached to this item, were examples of resolutions passed by Wheatland Union High School District, which called for state officials “to recommend and not require the COVID-19 vaccine for students and staff,” and Rocklin Unified School District, which supported “local decision making authority regarding COVID-19 health and safety protocols” and requested that the governor’s vaccine mandate be reconsidered.
One of the paragraphs from the Rocklin resolution was included as the final paragraph in the draft resolution considered by the Nevada Joint Union High School District board Wednesday.
The final paragraph stated, “Therefore, be it finally resolved, that with the State of Emergency slated to end March 31, 2022, the NJUHSD Board of Trustees expects all masking, testing, and vaccination mandates to terminate at that time, with a return to normal activities on April 1, 2022, consistent with local conditions.”
Trustee Jim Drew moved to approve the resolution, and received a second from Trustee James Hinman.
During the ensuing discussion of the item, Drew stated, “I would really recommend that our board takes a look at this and tells our government, ‘Why are they sticking their nose in our business? Why are they hurting our kids? Why are they hurting our schools?’”
Hinman stated he was “on the fence with this one,” on the one hand expressing that the use of masks is “hurting our kids” in schools, while also saying that “vaccines do work.”
He said he would be unsure of his conclusion on the resolution until a discussion took place. “I think you can see we’re split,” said Hinman. “This is a tough subject, a really tough subject.”
“It’s unfortunate that the Rocklin example made it on, because it’s conflating … mask mandates and the vaccine mandate, and I think that that’s unfortunate because I think that they’re two different conversations,” said Trustee Jamie Reeves.
Reeves stated that it was the board’s fiduciary duty to protect taxpayers’ money, and that she wanted district administration to rewrite it and consult legal counsel as a precaution against potential legal fees for the district. She also went on to say the draft in its form at that time did not reflect the board’s “voice,” taking issue in particular with its final paragraph.
“Honestly, I can’t believe this ever made it into a draft form on our agenda,” she said. “For our local school district to think that we get to declare the pandemic over and not protect our community, like we just showed up for our community during these storms, or scientific facts is perhaps the most overreaching action this board has ever taken.”
Trustee DuWaine Ganskie stated that some of the communications received by the board came from people “in support of us just ignoring what the state was saying,” and clarified that the board cannot do that.
“Trustee Seeley, madam chair, I respectfully question why you would choose to read one doctor’s opinion, when we’ve got so many other doctors and health care opinions — I’m looking at them right now — that say just the opposite,” said Ganskie.
He also stated that, “as parents,” he was in support of urging the governor to reconsider his proposed vaccine mandate, “but it shouldn’t have anything to do with masks, testing, other mitigating things that we’re trying to do to stave off this pandemic.”
Responding to trustees’ statements during the discussion, Seeley stated, “The thing about it is, if the government mandates it, this resolution isn’t going to stop the mandate from going through.” She explained that the resolution is meant to act as a message to the state regarding the amount of students that could leave the district, and said she is fighting for that portion of the student body to stay.
Drew moved to have two trustees, as well as Student Trustee Anthony Pritchett, form a committee with District Superintendent Brett McFadden to rewrite a new resolution on this topic. The motion received approval from the other trustees.
Following its discussion, the board heard public comments from 10 people who had requested to speak. Five of them expressed support for the proposed resolution — whether stating opposition to masks and COVID-19 vaccines, or belief that these measures should be optional — while the other five expressed opposition to the resolution, or support for currently recommended COVID-19 mitigation measures.
One public commenter, Nevada Union High School senior Sabine Noyes, stated that she and Pritchett had created a petition out of concern regarding the proposed resolution, and that it had accumulated “seven pages” of staff and student signatures within less than three days of circulation.
“President Seeley, now is even more of an inappropriate time to propose this because of the height in cases. I have friends who have it, I know parents that have it, I know teachers and community members that have it,” said Noyes. “Nevada County counted 259 new COVID-19 cases this last Monday, so I urge you to look at those signatures and see that the students and staff of (Nevada Union) oppose the position you want to take against the vaccine mandate.”
Prior to hearing the 10 speakers, Seeley said, “And just keep in mind, we are going to be bringing this back to the board, hopefully by this next meeting in February.”
The board’s next meeting is set to be held Feb. 9, with open session beginning at 6 p.m.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com
A correction was made Jan. 17 regarding the motion to approve receiving a second.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User