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Public commenters continue to spout conspiracy theories at school board meetings


Anti-vaccine and anti-mask conspiracy theorists, who’ve turned up to every school board meeting since COVID-19 vaccines became available, again turned out in force to give public comment at Tuesday’s Washoe County School District School Board of Trustees meeting.

They touted COVID-19 treatments for which there is no supporting medical evidence, like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. Ivermectin is a veterinary medication. The FDA on Saturday tweeted for people to stop using it.

Commenters called COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen “death jabs” and “bio weapons.” One man claimed they contain microchips: they don’t. A woman alleged that 45,000 people a day are dying from COVID-19 vaccines—a patently false claim.

Some said the school board was a part of the New World Order. This was in reference to  the conspiracy theory that hypothesizes a secretly emerging totalitarian world government.

Fred Simon, a Gardnerville doctor who announced he’d be making a Republican bid for governor earlier this year, said he was amazed by the “lack of information” and “evidence-based medicine” being used by the board to make decisions. 

He then alleged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention holds 71 U.S. Patents on the Coronavirus that predate the pandemic. This too is debunked conspiracy drummed up in the “Plandemic” documentary.

Simon called mask mandates in school mental abuse and said testing requirements for unvaccinated athletes is tantamount to segregation.

Several people claimed PCR tests for COVID-19 contain carcinogens. This is also false.

“This is our children you are talking about,” said one woman. “This is humanity at stake…I’m trying to be so kind at the same time that I am literally ready to go to war. Do you understand that you have to stand up?”

Another woman claimed mask mandates are only in place because Gov. Steve Sisolak’s wife’s family owns a mask company in China. This was a claim made earlier this month by Nye County Commissioner Donna Cox, whom even Nevada’s Senate Republicans condemned for the statement.

One commenter said that she wanted to greet Taylor with a “heil, Hitler.” 

Others claimed the school board was in violation of the Nuremberg Code—a set of research ethics principles for human experimentation created by the USA v Brandt court case as one result of the Nuremberg trials at the end of the Second World War. Some claimed the school board is practicing medicine without a license.

“When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty—and Nevada parents are on duty,” one commenter said.

Only a few commenters came before the board to talk about their support of masking and vaccines, both of which medical experts say are the best tools to halt the pandemic. 

One cited how the polio vaccine was given on sugar cubes and noted children don’t have to get that vaccine now because it worked. She also asked those opposed to masks to consider if they’re also opposed to things like car seats, seatbelts, helmets and crosswalks.

Another woman noted that children are required to have a number of vaccines to attend school. She also asked the board why there will be no consequences for parents who knowingly send their students to school after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Superintendent Kristen McNeill said the authority for imposing consequences on those parents lies with Washoe County Health District should it choose to do so. District Health Officer Kevin Dick said disease investigators are already too overwhelmed with everyday contact tracing duties to pursue this issue.

Board decides on new sex-ed committee members, COVID-19 testing for athletes

Trustee Jeff Church opposed the appointment of two new members to the district’s Sexuality, Health, and Responsibility Education (SHARE) Advisory Committee. Vanessa Vancour and Stephanie Shuman will fill the two openings in the Parent/Guardian category.

Church said he received numerous emails from constituents angry with the candidates’ perceived support for inclusive educational materials, including information for LGBTQIA students. He wanted the board to weigh in on the candidates instead of having them chosen by a separate district selection committee.

Board President Angela Taylor said advisory committees like the SHARE Committee are intended to comprise people with many differing views, including views in support of inclusive materials.

“No one can leave their views at the door,” she said.

Vancour and Shuman were appointed to the committee in a vote of 6-1, with Church voting nay.

Among the board’s other agenda items were two pertaining to sports. Vaccinated athletes who play close-contact sports like football do not need to be regularly tested for COVID-19. 

Those who are unvaccinated need to be tested weekly. This also applies to coaches, sports staff and volunteers. The guidelines follow Sisolak’s directive 048. All unvaccinated WCSD athletes also get tested if they’re traveling outside of Washoe County to compete.

Where’s the line where we say, ‘Well, we’re not going to spend that much on the health of our kids’?”

Many of the commenters at the board meeting spoke specifically on this item, saying testing unvaccinated athletes was forcing segregation of the students. 

Church said he thinks not testing vaccinated athletes for COVID-19 is illogical given breakthrough cases. The crowd clapped and cheered before being reminded by Taylor not to be disruptive.

Trustees discussed for more than an hour the merits of testing all student athletes regardless of vaccination status, and that’s what they’ll be doing, at least through Sept. 28.

The funding for testing comes from money acquired by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 under the Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity Reopening Schools grant.

The board had to vote to approve joining a contract between the State of Nevada and Health Screening Solutions to gain access to the funds in an amount of up to $3,168,000.

The school district plans to test all close-contact student athletes at least until its board meeting on Sept. 28. This may be extended, unless district officials find it will have a huge effect on the funds available for testing.

Where’s the line where we say, ‘Well, we’re not going to spend that much on the health of our kids’?” Board Clerk Ellen Minetto questioned. “Because if anybody can get it, vaccinated or not, we’ve got to do our best to protect them.”

Taylor stressed that imposing testing upon all close-contact athletes would make the board’s policy more restrictive than the state’s and raised concerns about increased costs prior to the board’s vote.

The board approved testing for all close-contact student athletes in a 6-1 vote, with Trustee Jacqueline Calvert voting no. 

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.




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