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Schools superintendent stands behind statement made following siege on U.S. Capitol


Schools Superintendent Kristen McNeill today held her first media briefing since Washoe County School District’s winter break ended. In addition to discussing COVID-19 mitigation efforts and the distribution of laptops to students on distance learning, McNeill addressed a statement the district put out following Wednesday’s siege on the nation’s Capitol.

The district called and emailed families and also posted the following message on Facebook:

If your child needs some extra support and comfort in light of today’s events, the Washoe County School District has materials available on its website to help. Please be aware that our team members at your child’s school, the Counseling Department, and the Department of Equity and Diversity are here to assist if you and your family need information and resources. Please visit the link below: https://www.washoeschools.net/Page/11144

The result was a slew of angry parents and nearly 900 comments on the post, most of them expressing anger toward the district.

“I want to start by talking about the events that happened this week in our nation’s capital, which were very disturbing to us as Americans,” McNeill said at the beginning of the briefing. “I am not alone in my condemnation of these acts. Other leaders, as well as other superintendents across our country … have stated the same—including, as of yesterday, the president. As an educator, a parent and superintendent of the Washoe County School District, I unconditionally condemn the violence and all violent acts.

“This was an assault on our nation’s highest institution, which stands in stark contrast to the values we have worked to instill in our students. Every morning, across our school district our students recite the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag as part of our curriculum. We teach how our system of government works and work with our students to remind them that there must be respect to uphold our democracy that guarantees our rights and freedoms as Americans.”

Dr. Kristen McNeill

McNeill pointed out that contrary to what many have said, the district did make statements following the killing of George Floyd and the rioting that ensued and offered teachers guidance on how to discuss not only the killing but the vandalization of buildings and businesses. She also pointed out that the school district sent school police to help other law enforcement agencies during the rioting that took place in downtown Reno on May 30.

“To be clear, this is not a political issue,” McNeill said. “As a district we are not taking a political stand. We are Americans, and we are committed to protecting democracy. It was not meant to be political in any stretch of the imagination. … I stand by the message that I sent.”

WCSD Counseling Coordinator Katherine Loudon explained that the way teachers have been and will continue discussing the siege on the Capitol with students depends on the classroom and the age of the students in it. She pointed out that government and history teachers may weave it into their lesson plans.

Equity and Diversity Director Tiffany Young added, “As we enter into the dialogue about what’s happening, I would encourage you all to just stop for a moment and think about the fact that 10 to 15 years from now, the issues that are taking place will be in history books. So, while we are struggling with whether or not to have the conversation, it will be documented for students to engage in, in education way beyond … our time. So, when we think about whether or not it’s political, that’s not the issue.”

On Friday afternoon, comments were still being made on the Facebook post—some of them expressing gratitude, but the majority expressing anger.

Facbeook user Busk Johnny wrote, “Wow—Just wow, WCSD sure has Californianed [sic] the school district. Nevada is home, Nevada used to hold the concept of personal responsibility as a core concept. Please keep Californian idiotically BS out of Nevada Schools and focus on Nevada. The primary concern should be local school district and why they test where they test on the National level. Not how the parents feel about something that happened at the Nation’s Capital.”

Facebook user Brittini Nelson chimed in and wrote, “You should not be pushing your political beliefs onto our children! Shame on you WCSD!! This is exactly why we move [sic] away from this county. Worst schools, politically driven, in the nation!

Others continued to criticize the district for not making the same kind of efforts following the Reno riots in May 2020.

Damon Krause wrote, “Where was this email when ‘peaceful protesters’ were killing, burning down businesses, establishing their own ‘cities’, and rioting in the streets? You should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves. This district has shown it’s [sic] true colors.”

Another user, Nikki Walsh, wrote, “YOUR [sic] A JOKE!!! 🤣🤣 How do we tell our kids school is safe IF YOU AHOLES WONT [sic] LET THEM GO!!! “Why mom can’t I go school” sorry little Johnny it’s safe but they won’t let you…because??? STFU!!!”

The post even spurred the creation of an online petition aimed at the “recall” of McNeill. Comments on the petition echoed what was said on Facebook.

“Antifa and BLM burned down businesses and destroyed lives, where was superintendent Mcneill’s message to our kids then. Hypocracy [sic] from the head of Washoe County School District. I will not let hypocrites teach my children. #WCSDworstincountry,” wrote Scott Frybarger of Sparks.

After signing the petition, Ryan H of Dayton, Ohio, wrote, “I will not have an angenda [sic] pushing democratic POS making decisions for my child. This district has done NOTHING right and she is the head idiot in charge, get rid of her of we will pull or [sic] child out of this district and you can say goodbye to your money for filling seats!”

Jeri Chadwell
Jeri Chadwellhttp://thisisreno.com
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.