Pulaski County Public Schools received notice last week that Governor Ralph Northam has amended executive order #72 in a way that reduces the number of potential spectators at football games and prohibits public schools from counting cheerleaders and band members as participants/players. The amended order is forcing schools throughout the state to choose between excluding band and cheer from participation or reducing the number of parents who can attend these events. We are opposed to the restrictions imposed by the amended order for the following reasons:
1. The order is discriminatory in that it diminishes the role of predominantly female groups of student athletes and musicians, who are essential participants in the football game experience, by classifying them as spectators.
2. The order is not grounded in the science that we currently utilize in implementing Covid mitigation strategies. We know from experience that we can safely put 1000 students a day into our high school with classrooms at 80% capacity by masking and social distancing. Counting band and cheer as participants in addition to 250 spectators would still leave our football stadium, an outdoor venue, at less than 5% capacity.
3. The order is arbitrary and capricious. There is a noticeable lack of consistency in how executive order #72 establishes expectations for outdoor venues. Public beaches and amusement parks are afforded much more leeway and allowed incredibly higher attendance rates than high school stadiums which have been relegated to the category of community rec programs. It’s a designation that is insulting to to our extracurricular and co-curricular programs while tying the hands of local governments to meet the needs of their communities.
Pulaski County Public Schools will abide by the guidance set forth in the amended executive order #72 while exploring available options for challenging it such as seeking a legal remedy through the courts or requesting a Title IX investigation regarding the possible gender discrimination aspect. It is our sincerest hope that Governor Northam will reconsider his decision and include band and cheer as participants when new guidance is issued at the end of the month. Our teachers and coaches are doing incredible things to create positive experiences for kids and our students deserve the same effort from their state government.
Pulaski County Public Schools appreciates the overwhelming amount of support that we’ve received from throughout the state over the past week regarding our original plan to classify band and cheer as participants. It is our hope that these individuals and others will exercise their right to reach out to the Governor’s office to advocate for equal consideration for all student athletes and musicians as his administration works to develop new guidance that will go into effect on March 1, 2021.