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Clarification, Questions and Answers
To: Staff, Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers of Students at San Pasqual Valley Unified School District
From: Rauna Fox, Superintendent
Date: December 20, 2017
Re: October 6, 2017 Events at Mayer, AZ-Clarification, Questions and Answers
As you will recall on Friday, October 6, 2017, the San Pasqual Valley High School Warrior football team and cheerleaders traveled to Mayer, Arizona. A pregame protest during the singing of the national anthem resulted in San Pasqual Valley High School students being subjected, post-game, to verbal threats and physical assault including the throwing of water and repeated use of racial slurs and gestures. As a result, in an effort to ensure the safety of students and staff at the final home football game, I issued a memo on October 11th, to the coaching staff, that set forth temporary rules of conduct for student athletes and coaches during the playing of the national anthem at our games. On October 12th I also sent a memo to parents explaining the steps the District was taking to address the incidents with Arizona Interscholastic Association, Mayer High School and describing the temporary rules of conduct we believed necessary to address student safety, pending development of a formal Board Policy.
Since the national anthem is not played at District basketball games and other athletic events (other than football), we dispensed with the playing of the National Anthem at our final home game on October 12th, 2017. This action abandoned the temporary rules and the District began developing a facilities policy for Board consideration that would address all political activism during athletic competitions in our facilities. This policy would foster student educational and athletic achievements, while eliminating potential distraction and disruption of these events and providing a safe and supportive educational and athletic competition environment.
Since the end of football season, we have received a number of questions from community members, regarding our original actions in response to the Mayer incident and about ongoing activities regarding the development of a formal Board Policy on the issue. In light of these questions, as well as those raised by the recent filing of a lawsuit and inquiries from the public and the media, I offer the following clarification and answers to recent questions.
- Has the Arizona Interscholastic Association responded to SPVUSD’s request to remove Mayer High from its football schedule?
Answer: On October 10, 2017, Darrell Pechtl, High School Principal, contacted Mr. J. Paddock at the Arizona Interscholastic Association to notify him of the incident at Mayer High School on October 6, 2017. On October 13, 2017, we received an e-mail from David Hines, Executive Director of AIA directing us to work with the region Chair during scheduling to ensure that Mayer was not placed on our schedule. To my knowledge, Mayer is not on our schedule for football during the 2018-2019 school year.
- Is the District currently researching, studying, and evaluating a proposed policy restricting political activities during interscholastic athletic games?
Answer: In consultation with District legal counsel, a draft facilities use policy (identified as potential Board Policy 1330.2) was submitted to the Board on November 28, 2017 for consideration. The Board declined to take action approving the Policy and by unanimous 4-0 vote, tabled the Policy for a presentation at a future Board Meeting. The item appeared on the December 12, 2017 agenda but only as an item listed for “future agendas”, and no discussion or action was taken on that item. The District has a continuing interest in trying to develop a facilities use policy that will preserve our athletic facilities as a non-public forum for political activism during athletic competition to foster student educational and athletic achievement while eliminating potential distraction and disruption of these events and provide a safe and supportive educational and athletic competition environment, while at the same time, preserving First Amendment rights of participants. There is currently no intent to place the draft policy, previously tabled, on a future agenda. Development of a policy will require additional research, study, evaluation and will not move forward without formal Board action after public readings, hearings and revisions to the draft tabled policy. It is unlikely that that process will be completed, if at all, this year. The District will keep the community informed if and when a proposed policy is developed for submission to the Board of Trustees.
- Are there plans to play the national anthem at SPVHS’s football games at home during the 2018-2019 school year?
Answer: At this time, the national anthem is not being played at any current or future sporting events. Historically the District has only played the national anthem at football games and at no other athletic events. Our research through the Arizona Interscholastic Association revealed that playing of the national anthem by a school district is not required in order to be in compliance with any AIA regulation or rule. I anticipate revisiting the issue of whether or not the District will play the national anthem at football games, prior to the beginning of next football season.
- Are the temporary rules that were described in the October 11th and 12th memos still in effect?
Answer: No. We abandoned implementation of and enforcement of the temporary rules when we decided not to play the national anthem at the October 12th football game. The temporary rules, as noted in both of my memos were only to remain in effect pending the Board’s opportunity to consider adoption of a Board Policy on the subject. We developed that draft policy in consultation with legal counsel, submitted it to the Board on November 28th, the Board declined to approve the policy and tabled it by unanimous vote. The temporary rules were first abandoned, and then vacated by the Board’s decision not to proceed further with the policy. There is currently no rule or policy regarding this subject.
- Why are the October 11th and 12th memos on the District’s website?
Answer: The memos were placed on the website as news items, as are many other news items that are relevant at a specific time. They remain on the website, simply as news items for an undetermined period of time and eventually news items falloff the website chronologically and are replaced with other news items. These memos were pre-set to be removed from the website on December 31, 2017, but the District has since removed it from the website to avoid further confusion.
- Why didn’t you issue formal notice that the temporary rules were abandoned?
Answer: Once we decided not to play the national anthem at the final football game, there was no need for the rules and they were moot. Rules were not enforced and we turned our attention to development of the Board Policy and it seemed understood the rules were abandoned, not enforced and were no longer necessary because the anthem is not played at basketball, baseball, track and other fall and spring sports. The District, parents and other members of the community turned their attention to formal Board Policy development and the questions and concerns we were receiving pertained to the actual Board Policy and not the temporary rules that had been abandoned. Once the Board considered a formal Board Policy, declined to approve one and tabled the draft policy there is, no policy or rule, temporary or otherwise, about the issue. The question of whether there is a policy or rule about the issue was only revived because of the filing of the December 8th lawsuit, after the Board had declined to adopt a policy and tabled the issue.