The District passed the ‘Let Them Breath’ resolution regarding mask mandates

PASO ROBLES — Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) made decisions on Tuesday night involving Critical Race Theory (CRT) and mask mandates upon returning to school.

The Board made it clear that each individual will have three minutes to speak, and they will only hear 20 minutes worth of public comment per agenda item to ensure they get to all agenda items.

First, with a 6-1 vote (Baker voting no), the Board approved a pool of architects and engineering services firms for future Measure M Bond projects. 

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

The Board approved these architectural firms: Nineteen-Six (19-6), PBK-WLC, IBI Inc., and Dyson-Janzen. District Staff will submit individual agreements/contracts on a project-by-project basis.

H.2. Resolution 21-27 A: Resolution of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District prohibiting the teaching of Critical Race Theory

The Board has heard two hours of public input on CRT over the course of two meetings. During Tuesday’s meeting, they listened to a final 20 minutes of public input on CRT and made a final decision on a resolution to ban the teaching of it in PRJUSD schools. 

Eighty-two emails were received for public comment and are available online for the public to read. 

In-person public comment was heated and emotional at times, with comments in support of banning CRT and others against the ban.

Some of those against the ban stated that CRT will eventually make its way into the school system and that those against the theory are contributing to “whitewashing” history.

Those in favor of banning CRT expressed worries about CRT creating more division and marks white people as oppressors. 

Superintendent Curt Dubost made a comment before the Board’s discussion on the proposed resolution. 

He said, “Don’t we live in a great country that we can do this? That we can come together and have this discussion? Let’s hear it for the United States of America where we can have this discussion in a civil way.”

Board Trustee Nathan Williams said that while he disagrees with CRT being in the curriculum, the resolution is flawed. Bausch later agreed the resolution was flawed. 

Later, Board Trustee Jim Reed gave a brief overview of American history.

“If you look at all whites, we are not oppressors—just these few facts of history completely render this theory that all whites are oppressors and America is systematically racist completely invalid. It is imperative that we teach truth in our classrooms. There is no place for an inaccurate theory such as CRT. I don’t want it in the high school or K-12.”

Board Trustee Chris Bausch said, “Not that we should, but none of tonight’s three possible resolutions go far enough to ban race-based curricula to satisfy our own local faction.”

Bausch compared banning CRT to when Rock ‘n Roll was being banned in the States, saying it didn’t work. He later said he could not support any of the resolutions.

President Chris Arend, who wrote the resolution, said it takes away the “fundamental premises in order to so say kill the beast—we do need to teach the children about communism, about fascism, about theocracy, about all sorts of other things. They need to be taught about it, but there is a difference between teaching CRT as Gospel as truth and teaching about this flawed ideology.”

Baker made a motion to approve resolution 21-27 A, which Lance Gannon seconded.

The motion then passed with a 4-3 vote (Williams, Gearhart, and Bausch voting no), followed by cheering from the in-person crowd.

H.3. Approve Return to Full In-Person Family Guide with Clarification of District Position on Mask Mandate and Consider Possible Adoption of “Let Them Breathe” Resolution

Paso Robles Schools go back to full in-person learning on Aug. 19. 

A “Welcome Back to School Family Guide” is being mailed out to parents in both English and Spanish.

Deputy SuperintendentJennifer Gaviola said, “As we highlight what full in-person school will look like, it is with the goal and intention that we will be AKA normal again. But we aren’t quite there yet.”

The family guide says students will be required to wear masks indoors but will not be required outside and during recess. 

Before public comment Dubost made some comments, “It was our belief until recently that this would be a local decision and that we could have a different recommendation. Based on legal guidelines and mandates, that’s not the case. And to not go with enforcement of the masks puts the District into a position that is indefensible. If you don’t like that, take it up with the people who make the rules. Not us.”

The District is upholding the mask mandates due to guidelines set by the State and has had attorneys look into what options they have. Not comply with the State mandates risks the District losing its liability insurance.

Many parents expressed concern for their children’s mental health and other potential health risks if forced to wear masks. As a result, some parents said they would be pulling their children from the District and homeschool while masks mandates are in place.

While many of the board members expressed they did not want to mandate masks on the students, but felt their hands are tied with the potential loss of liability insurance and funds. It was said support from the community is not enough if the District were to lose its insurance and funds.

The Let Them Breath resolution was also a part of the agenda item.

The “Let Them Breath” resolution states that this Board establishes the following goals:

  • Advocate in writing to the CDPH to remove mandatory requirements for preventative measures such as masks, quarantines, and asymptomatic testing.
  • Allow school districts to consult with city and county health departments to determine the need for safety protocols based on local conditions.
  • Advocate for parental choice for masking and vaccinating their children.
  • Ensure that mask requirements will NOT be used as punishment to coerce children to get vaccinated.

Trustee Bausch said, “The resolution is more of a symbolic nature, and it sends a message to Sacramento. It sends a message to other school districts ‘be brave enough to resist this’ until we can come up with a legal [solution].”

It was discussed to have staff look into filing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against mandates believed to be oppressive. The District would look into filing a TRO or action with other districts.

After plenty of discussion, the board motioned to approve the back-to-school family guide, combined with the Let Them Breath resolution. 

The motion passed with a 5-2 vote (Williams and Gearhart voting no).

The Board then directed staff to investigate the possibility of filing an action in court against the mask mandate with the legal counsel.

H.4. Approve Update Response to Grand Jury Recommendations 

The Board approved with a 7-0 vote to send an update of progress made in completing the recommended actions to the Grand Jury Report to the SLO Grand Jury prior to the Aug. 15, deadline.

H.5. Approve Four Recommendations for the Naming of District Facilities at Paso Robles High School 

The Board approved naming four district facilities at Paso Robles High School with a 7-0 vote.

Named Facilities:

  • PRHS Welding Building – William Fred Stroud Jr.
  • PRHS Library – Mrs. Bertha Phillips
  • PRHS Woodshop/Building Trades/BITA Classrooms 601 & 602 – Mr. Randy Canaday
  • PRHS Field (Practice Field) – Don Edward Parish (deceased May 9, 2018)

The next PRJUSD meeting is scheduled for Aug. 24, with the general session starting at 6 p.m.