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The Parker School Board will hold a public hearing on a face mask mandate in the schools at 9 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 18 at Players Ninth Street Youth Center, 1309 W. 9th Street.

The board had a face mask mandate on the agenda for their Oct. 13 meeting. The goal of such mandates is to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, after listening to representatives from the Colorado River Indian Tribes in Call to the Public, as well as some discussion among board members, board president Randy Hartless moved to have a public hearing on the matter.

“We really need to have a discussion about this,” Hartless said.

The Tribes have seen an increase in the number of new cases among Tribal members. As of Oct. 13, the total number of cases had reached 1,033 out of approximately 4,500 members. Due to this increase, the CRIT Tribal Council reinstated their “Safer at Home” order on Sept. 16. One provision of that order is large gatherings are not permitted without the approval of a mitigation plan by the Tribal Council.

Among the issues this has caused is the Tribes will not allow Parker High School to use Joe Bush Stadium for football games. The Tribal Council has not approved a coronavirus mitigation plan for the games because they want the Parker Unified School District to adopt a system-wide face mask mandate.

Joe Bush Stadium is on Tribal land.

The Parker School District currently mandates masks at Le Pera Elementary School, which is located on Tribal land south of Poston. They are also mandated on school busses, which often travel on roads on the reservation.

Four of the schools in the district, Blake Primary, Wallace Elementary, Wallace Junior High, and Parker High School, are located on non-Tribal land, or “fee land,” that is within the Town of Parker. The town is within the boundaries of the CRIT reservation.

Earlier this year, as part of Arizona’s state budget, school districts were barred from requiring masks for their students. This law was struck down Monday, Sept. 27, by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper. On Thursday, Sept. 30, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s request to stay Cooper’s ruling.

The Parker schools had stated they could not mandate masks because of state law. The Tribes, however, stated they had a right to regulate the behavior of people on fee lands if it affected the health and welfare or Tribal members. They said 30 percent of all Parker students are either Tribal members or other Native Americans.

In addressing the school board Oct. 13, Tommy Drennan, a member of the CRIT Tribal Council, noted the case of Montana v. U.S., where the courts declared Tribes had authority over non-Tribal members on non-Tribal lands within the boundaries of their reservation. He also referred to the case of CRIT v. Town of Parker, where the courts ruled the town was not “disestablished” from the reservation.

As it stands now, with no mask mandate, Drennan said the school district is not in compliance with the requirements for an educational institution within the boundaries of a reservation.

Anissa Patch, who is also a Tribal Council member, said the Tribal Council is charged with controlling communicable diseases among their members. She said protecting children is of the greatest importance. She added the school board may have to consider more than what the governor wants.

“We have the authority to ask for masks within our boundaries,” she said. “We’re thinking of our people. Think of your people.”

Tracy Quillan of CRIT Education said mask mandates also protect the academic performance of students. With a mask mandate, students don’t have to stay away from school, and this improves their academic performance.

Tommie Miller said she and her family got sick from the coronavirus, and she didn’t want others to get it.

Board Members Amelia Flores said she wanted to see masks made mandatory. Flores is also the Chairwoman of CRIT.

Board Member Deanna Beaver said mask mandates were all about civil liberties. She said she had no problem with people who wore masks, but she did not want to see a mask mandate.

“This is one step away from a burka,” she said. “The virus is not going away. We’re going to have to learn to live with it.”

Hartless said the Tribes mandate face mask in public places on the CRIT reservation, like Walmart and the stores in the Moovalya Plaza Shopping Center. However, he said he sees many people without masks, and there’s no enforcement of the mandate.

Parker School Superintendent Brad Sale said 30 to 50 percent of the students in the district already wear masks, including most of the students at Parker High.

Sale said that, if a face mask mandate is adopted, the board must allow for some people to not have to wear a mask. These include children under the age of two, someone with mental or medical issues that would keep them from wearing a mask, and people who have difficulty breathing. These could include students with asthma, autism or anxiety.

“We need to have some opt out,” he said.

Sale noted these exemptions are already included in the CRIT mask mandate.

Drennan said he agreed some people couldn’t or shouldn’t wear a mask. He added, though, that they needed to utilize every means available to slow the spread of the virus.

After some discussion, Hartless suggested holding a public hearing on a face mask mandate. The board approved the motion and the hearing was set for 9 a.m. on Oct. 18 at Players.

“Hopefully, we can have a productive discussion,” he said.

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(2) comments

sam whittemore

critiots. masks work great to controi sheep. useless for any other purpose. hopefully critters mandate the jab, and stupid settlers go along with it. gonna be a lot less stupid people around in 3 years.

Bill

Masks are as useless as the idiot-in-chief in Washington D.C.!

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