We learned this week what the problem is as far as the Colorado River Indian Tribes approving a mitigation plan that would allow Parker High School football games at Joe Bush Stadium. The Tribes want the Parker Unified School District to adopt a system-wide face mask mandate.
It’s easy to understand the Tribes’ position. Like other tribal communities around the state, they have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. They recently reported their 1,000th case, which is a lot for a total enrolled membership of less than 4,500. They ask what’s the point of having a mitigation plan for a mass event like a football game when their young members are being potentially exposed to the virus every day at school?
This was putting the school district between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Most of the schools are located on non-Tribal land within the Town of Parker. The Town is within the boundaries of the CRIT reservation. As part of Arizona’s 2021-22 budget, face mask mandates were banned in public schools. The Parker School District could lose their state funding if they had mandated face masks. Gov. Doug Ducey even threatened to cut funding to school districts that had face mask mandates even before the ban on face mask mandates was to go into effect.
This was setting up the various parties for some litigation. The Tribes can cite the case of Montana v. U.S. where the courts ruled tribes could regulate the behavior of non-tribal members on non-tribal land within reservations if that behavior affected the health and welfare of tribal members. They can also cite Town of Parker v. CRIT, which said the Town of Parker was never “disestablished” from the CRIT reservation.
The state could come back and claim they have authority over the Parker schools because they are not on Tribal land.
I can already imagine the lawyers drooling over this case.
The issue of face mask mandate bans is moot now because the ban was declared illegal by the Maricopa County Superior Court. The Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear arguments for a stay of that decision.
So, it’s now up to the Parker School Board to decide if they will have a face mask mandate or not.
It’s worth noting a face mask mandate is in place at Le Pera Elementary School, which is unquestionably on Tribal land. They’re also in place on the school buses, which often travel on roads on the reservation.
CRIT has stated 30 percent of the students in the Parker School District are Tribal members or other Native Americans.
PUSD Superintendent Brad Sale said many students already wear face masks, even though they are not required to do so.
All of this brings up an interesting question: if the Parker Broncs aren’t allowed to play home games at Joe Bush Stadium due to concerns over a system-wide mask mandate, why is Parker Youth Football allowed to play there?
These young players come from the same schools that have no mask mandates. I was at a game recently, and I saw a large crowd with a lot of people who weren’t wearing masks.
I’m not trying to get Parker Youth Football in trouble, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m “tattling” on them. I’m just wondering why the different actions. It seems like there’s a double standard.
Something needs to be done that will benefit all the young people of the community while protecting them and their families from the coronavirus. The football players, band members and cheerleaders at Parker High deserve to play at home where their parents and families can watch them perform. At the same time, no one wants to do anything that will spread that nasty little virus even further than it’s already been spread.
The Pioneer hopes some sort of arrangement can be worked out. The Tribal Council and the School Board need to get together to hash things out. They both care deeply about the youth and children of our community.
As it stands now, that caring is putting those youth and children in a bind and causing some harm. That’s now how it should be. We can do better than that.