RUSD vs. Newsom

RUSD Board votes 4-1 to request local authority over COVID protocols in the District’s schools


Radian Hong, Introduction to Journalism Staff Reporter

Last December, the Rocklin Unified School District (RUSD) board passed a resolution insisting that all masking, testing, and vaccination requirements end with the expiration of California’s State of Emergency in April 2022; if not, the District plans to continue to challenge these regulations.

Passed with a 4-1 vote, this resolution also requests that Governor Newsom reconsider his state-wide vaccination mandate for schools, thus allowing independent study to be optional. The resolution cites a parent’s prerogative to decide for their own children, as written in the resolution itself.

According to a press release, Newsom’s mandate would entail mandatory proof-of-vaccination for in-person attendance for all middle and high school aged children, upon full Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. As of now, that likely means the 2021-2022 school year.

“I do think there is clearly, amongst my colleagues, a growing frustration with the mandates, and probably the longer that these mandates remain in place I think the more desire there is to sort of push back in the state,” said RUSD Board Member Rick Miller, the only member to vote against the District’s resolution.

“My perspective is, I think that there is an appropriate and legal way to push back on the state, that we should. But where I come down personally, very clearly, is an unwillingness to break the law. And if there is a law that says you have to wear a mask indoors, then we should wear a mask indoors. And so I think it’s important for a School Board to follow the law, follow the Constitution and sort of do as we promised that we would do.”
When asked about the resolution, Travis Mougeotte, President of the Rocklin Teachers Professional Association (RTPA) concurred. “Technically right now if the District were to enact that resolution that they passed in December, it would put us in potentially a safety violation,” Mougeotte said. “As of right now, state mandates are treated as laws or are treated as something formal that we have to follow.”

As for the implications of the resolution, Mougeotte continued, “The big concern is that that resolution told the community and told teachers and students that April 1st, we’re going to get rid of any COVID regulations that the governor hasn’t already reversed or removed when it comes to.”

“There could be some potential backlash or maybe another surge in uprising COVID in classrooms and teachers and students being out and large-scale, but again, that’s definitely some speculation just because, you know, a lot of what we’re doing is,” said Mougeotte.
Despite his vote, Miller remains hopeful masks will go away soon. “I want to move beyond masks as soon as humanly possible,” he said. “For sure. And so as soon as I think we get the local ability to do that, I think we will look at the spread and then probably make a different decision than the state has currently made around the mask mandate.” But while the state continues to enforce masks, Miller stands by his vote. “We’ve in a sense, never done more or less than the state law required.”

Mougeotte and the RTPA provided a contrasting opinion on the subject. “So from a teacher’s association standpoint, we’ve stood by safety as the driver,” he said. “And safety needs to be guided by science and facts. And right now the guidance says that masks, and recommended potentially later mandated vaccines, is that path.”

In the wake of the passing of Rocklin High school teacher Mr. Nickols, these events can be seen in a different light. “He passed of COVID complications. We know this, there’s no question about it,” said Rocklin High School biology and chemistry teacher Rebecca Redding. “And so just getting right back to the mask thing, if people can’t see how real that is by having a teacher on campus pass away because of COVID, I don’t know what it would take.”

Whatever the means, the end goal for all parties involved remains the same. “I don’t think [the Board] speak[s] with one voice on every issue, but I think generally speaking what we are, we do speak with a single voice is a desire of two things,” said Miller.
“One is to remain safe and make sure that the safety remains a priority for the board and for all of our students. And the two that we focus on academic achievement and education.” Likewise, Mougeotte agreed, “Our end goal is to keep our schools open, our classrooms open, our instruction as in-person as possible. You know, with minimal interruptions or distractions from any COVID regulations.”