Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) has heard from scores of frustrated and angry parents in Visalia, and throughout Tulare County, after the Visalia Unified School District canceled the football and water polo seasons for the 2020-21 school year, only one day after the county met the state’s health guidelines for sports to start up again. The Visalia Unified School District announced last week that football and water polo are not competing this spring, affecting three high schools, the Visalia Times-Delta reported.
The Globe spoke with Assemblyman Mathis Tuesday about this as he was driving on Highway 99 back to Visalia. He said he was recently asked to help organize a re-open effort by local community leaders, parents, coaches, boosters, players, and get kids back to school, sports and normal lives.
He’s been coordinating to connect the Visalia Unified School District with the Visalia City Council, and Community partners to get everyone on the same page about re-opening the schools, and to facilitate a Varsity sports season to actually take place this Spring. “I believe there is a way to call ‘game on’ for our Varsity teams, however it will take the community to come together to make it happen,” he said.
Mathis said the big sports complexes in the region are sitting empty, while record numbers of kids are overdosing, and taking their own lives, in despair over being locked down and away from their friends, schools and sports for the last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom and county public health officials.
Comparing the Coronavirus restrictions in the 50 states and District of Columbia, California is the most restrictive state, listed at #51, the Globe reported in February. Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all public schools closed, and they remain closed, since last Spring 2020. The SAT exam was cancelled. High schoolers have lost college opportunities, academic scholarships, and sports scholarships.
Phil Walker, a parent in the Visalia school district created the Let Them Play Tulare County Facebook page, to get everyone in one place for messaging and organizing. The Globe spoke with Walker who said he saw on Twitter coaches were posting requests for high school sports teams in counties already re-opened who could take Tulare County athletes, just so they could play and be considered for scholarships.
Then, he saw the two San Diego high school athletes who sued Gov. Newsom over the school and sports closures, and won. He was in contact with the lead attorney from the case who also connected his group to a sports psychologist and expert who told them that the teen suicide and drug overdose data for California is far worse than other states. “The majority of kids have contemplated suicide but aren’t telling adults about it because they don’t want to be made to go to counseling,” Walker said.
And that was it for Walker. He created the Facebook page, and said in less than 72 hours, the group already had more than 1,100 members signed up.
“We’ve reached a pivotal point for youth sports,” the Facebook page says. “The time has come to blow the whistle for the game to start. Depression, Drug-use, Gangs & worse Suicide are at an all time HIGH! Help get our kids in the game!”
A California psychologist told the Globe there is a 63% increase in overdose deaths for 2020, compared to the average of 2017-2019. She said suicides will cumulatively grow over the next 10 years, but overdoses are out of control right now. Walker said another report shows self-harming by 13-18 year old teens is up more than 300%.
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, MD, PhD recently explained the harms of lockdowns and governmental actions on the health of the population: “According to a US CDC estimate, one in four young adults seriously considered suicide this past June. Among 25 to 44-year olds, the US CDC reports a 26% increase in excess all-cause mortality relative to past years, though fewer than 5% of 2020 deaths have been due to COVID-19.”
The rally is (tonight) Tuesday evening at 6:00, before the VUSD board meeting at the district’s office, located at 5000 W. Cypress Ave. in Visalia. The Visalia Unified School Board also has a zoom link: https://www.vusd.org/boardmeetinglive.
The Globe will report back on the VUSD board meeting.