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Debunked: Jeff Church’s ‘facts’ don’t help (opinion)


Submitted by Pablo Nava Duran

I was disturbed and angry, but not surprised, to see Jeff Church’s RGJ article “Curriculum that divides by skin color has no place in WCSD.” I’m sure many people in Washoe County who have read Jeff Church’s articles aren’t surprised either. 

I remember him well from my time attending Washoe County School District (WCSD) board meetings during the public comment where he would criticize the board. That was before he became a trustee.

In recent articles, Trustee Church makes false statements alleging WCSD is teaching students to hate their country and teaching Critical Race Theory – neither of which is included nor planned for the school curriculum. 

Here are facts: 

  • Nevada Legislature passed Assembly Bill 261 during the last session, which sets standards for diversity and inclusion in public schools. This new law requires K-12 instructional materials that accurately portray the history and contributions of those from varying racial, socioeconomic, gender orientation and religious backgrounds. 
  • Also, Critical Race Theory is a study of the intersection of law and race that is taught at the graduate level in many universities, not in K-12 public education.

In my opinion, Trustee Church is lying and attacking teachers, staff and administrators and creating a problem that doesn’t exist in WCSD. Also, he tries to make minorities, LGBTQ and immigrant students feel unwelcome and encounter hostility inside the classroom. 

I’m familiar with the articles I read on watchdogjeff.com, and as an immigrant and having autism myself, I’ve heard it all. Trustee Church tries to rationalize his attacks on teachers, staff and administration with talking points that lean on “identity politics.” Then, his supporters “play their game” by talking during public comment and holding trustees’ meetings until past midnight.

Jeff Church supporters at the Washoe County School Board meeting Oct. 25, 2021. Image: Eric Marks / This Is Reno.
Jeff Church supporters at the Washoe County School Board meeting Oct. 25, 2021. Image: Eric Marks / This Is Reno.

WCSD trustees are trying to focus on students’ performance, address a staffing shortage and ensure the safety and well-being of our students and staff regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin and immigration status. They aren’t there for fame. 

Church’s actions are dangerous and a waste of time for the district. I feel that Trustee Church, a retired police officer, could make better use of his free time by being a team player, problem-solving and offering some real advice that helps our schools and communities rather than by berating his colleagues, administrators and staff. 

He promises to work as a team player, but during school board meetings it seems like he doesn’t want to be part of the team. He has shown little or no interest in visiting schools (which is part of the trustee’s job). He even tries to recruit candidates who have the same views as him and encourages them to run for the school board against his colleagues. 

I’m curious to know how many of his supporters attended school board meetings during the height of the pandemic spending time to share their messages to school board trustees. I wonder if waiting for their three minutes of public comment about hating our trustees is not the best way for helping the community – attacking minorities, the LGBTQ community and immigrant students, staff and administrators. 

To those who spend hours waiting to give three minutes’ public comment, I think you can find other ways to be useful: volunteer where you can at nearby schools, get your substitute teaching license, join a PTA or PTO member at a nearby school, join a committee, and maybe get a class C driver license so you can help with the bus driver shortage. 

To those who spoke on public comment and don’t have a child in WCSD or don’t live in Washoe County, you can volunteer at school or in a community, but you can’t criticize board members and commissioners to gain political points.  

I attended many school board meetings. I was yelled at and booed for many hours when I spoke in favor of mask mandates and their comments did absolutely nothing to change my stance. It made me more resolved to change my opinions in a way that would not give credence to this type of behavior. 

It gives me solace to know that because many students take the Social Emotional Learning program they are more well-behaved than most Church supporters. That includes Fred Simon, Bruce Parks, and many more. 

Protesters gathered outside the WCSD Administration Building May 25, 2021 in Reno, Nev. Image: Eric Marks / This Is Reno

WCSD and many school districts across America are trying their best to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of berating and making false statements adjusted to fit your political gain, host a town hall meeting for people in District A, volunteer at schools in your district for school events, and work with your colleagues for solutions to take WCSD in a positive direction, regardless of your political ideology. 

Enough with the culture wars in our schools. 

We need to work together and help to rebuild our community and increase the morale of our educators and students. We are still divided, but we can achieve more if we work together. 

I don’t care what political party you belong to or who you voted for. Teachers are doing their best to provide our students with an education, despite little public support and a lack of resources because of outdated state revenue streams. I know Nevada ranked 49th in education because there isn’t enough funding for public education. Also, Nevada ranked 18th in K-12 academic achievement. He never recognizes that three in the top 10 Nevada high schools are in WCSD, according to the U.S. News.

I say to the Trustee Church, I hope that you can sit down and listen to students, teachers, staff, and community members that are suffering and may not be part of your ideological circle. You’ll learn a lot, just like when you were a police officer.  I hope you take time and solve a solution that is good for the WCSD community.

Pablo Nava Duran is a future graduate of University of Nevada, Reno.

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