VISALIA. California (KSEE) – Parents and students in Tulare County rallied in front of the Visalia Unified board meeting Tuesday in a bid to let student-athletes play once again.
The school district currently allows 14 different athletic programs to continue – but that does not include water polo and football.
“This is my son right here,” said Golden West parent Irma Wheeler said, pointing to a water polo team photo. She then pointed to a cardboard cutout. “Oh, and by the way, I carry him with me all the time.”
Wheeler’s son said her son has been practicing all fall for the spring season, but now it’s canceled.
“He was so devastated last week,” said Wheeler. “He couldn’t believe it when we found out there was no water polo and we didn’t understand why.”
Wheeler’s son isn’t alone. Mount Whitney offensive lineman Jordan Meyst said he feels demoralized.
“To just cancel it,” said Meyst. “My heart kinda just dropped.”
Last week, the state cleared all athletic programs to resume – but Visalia and Porterville decided not to allow for football and water polo.
Dozens of parents, students, and coaches held signs and chanted in front of the board meeting on Tuesday to protest that decision.
“Although the decision will not satisfy everyone,” said Visalia Unified’s Kim Batty in a statement. “It was meant with the best intentions for student safety.”
Batty said there were several factors that lead to the decision including athlete safety due to lack of conditioning, priority for spring sports because those athletes missed out on sports in 2020, and a lack of transportation and facilities.
Let them play Tulare County co-founder Phil Walker believes the cancellations will do more harm than good.
“To see your kids in pain, to see your kids hurting, I don’t see how we get out of this without some of the worse happening,” said Walker. “We have stories about boys that are dropping out of school if there is no football.”