Many members of the Kansas State High School Athletics Association Board of Directors (KSHSAA) who voted against having spectators for winter sports didn’t want the public to know how they voted, but the Sentinel got the list, which also has most of their email addresses.

At a Nov. 24, 2020, board meeting — after initially appearing to leave the decision on whether or not to allow spectators up to the individual school districts — the board voted 50 to 26 to allow no one in the stands from Dec. 1, 2020, through January 28, 2020; something the board could extend if it felt conditions warranted.

An appeal hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m., central time, Friday, Dec. 4, and will be available to be viewed on the KSHSAA YouTube channel.

While the votes were recorded as part of a Zoom meeting, a motion by board member Stacy Reed and seconded by Jeff Hines requesting a roll call vote — which would require board members to answer “aye” or “nay” to the question and have their vote included in the minutes — failed 16 to 60. 

But the Sentinel acquired the lists of the 26 members who voted for spectators and the 50 board members who voted against spectators.

Blue Valley parent John Hill, whose son — a senior — is starting as a varsity basketball player for the first time, said he felt there was a reason for the board declining to have a roll call vote on the measure.

Hill watched the meeting online, and said that “… tells you they were not proud of the way they were voting. On the Zoom, you could not see the voting, they were doing that without visibility to the audience.”

The minutes of the meeting make it clear — there will be no one in the stands for nearly two months.

“For the period of December 1, 2020 through January 28, 2021, no spectators will be admitted/allowed for the KSHSAA sponsored interscholastic high school activities of basketball, bowling, scholars bowl, swimming & diving, and wrestling,” the new rule reads. 

An amendment, proposed by Reed and seconded by Martin Straub, to allow two spectators per student participant — essentially, parents or grandparents — failed 29-46.

That was particularly galling to Mill Valley High School parent of four Shay Janssen.

“You can go to a bar and watch … any other game,” Janssen said. “And you’re sure not social distancing there, and you’re not wearing a mask, because you’re drinking, but yet I can’t walk into a public school where I can social distance, and can wear a mask, and watch my kid.”

Like Janssen, this is personal for Hill. His son is not planning to play basketball competitively in college next year, so this is the last opportunity for him to watch his son play.

But Hill noted that many other students are hoping for basketball or other athletic scholarships and need recruiters to see them.

“There are, you know, there are a lot that … really need recruiters to come and be watching them and promoting themselves,” he said. “It means a lot to other kids that are working on scholarships.”

He noted that games are going to be streamed live, but that it won’t be free.

“The interesting thing on that, is you have to pay for it,” Hill said. “So not only can you not go but you have to pay like 10 bucks a month for a subscription to NFHS  to watch your kid play and so does anybody else that you want to have watch him.”

Hill said the rules appear to be counterproductive as well.

“We’re hearing that most of the parents that would normally go to the games are now having watch parties,” he said. “They’re going to be together with people, they’re not going to watch these games on their own.

“So if what you’re trying to do is keep people apart. That’s not working.” 

Janssen was also incensed that parents would not be allowed to attend games, but reporters would.

“While we were on the Zoom call and they were talking, a reporter texted one of the members and said, ‘oh does that count for reporters?’ and automatically without even … a second to think about it they said ‘oh no, they can come in,'” Janssen said. “A reporter can come in under his First Amendment rights, but me, as a parent with a minor, can’t come in and watch my child, even though I live with them.

“It’s just irrational. I know our trainer has said, “I want that parent there. That way if there’s a serious injury I can get them out of the stands, have them come down, and immediately take their kids (for treatment).”

The same restrictions apply to middle school athletics.

Statewide reaction

A petition was started early the morning of Dec. 3, 2020, and as of this writing more than 2,700 supporters had signed it, and 189 had left comments.

Linda Thumann, of Bellville commented: “Safety can still be maintained with steps in place to ensure it is…masks, temp checks, social distancing, etc! Sold out Football was allowed, without social distancing in SEVERAL instances, yet winter is nixed for spectators?! No. This is wrong. Parents at least, or 4 per player is extremely reasonable!”

Carmen Cutting, of Overland Park, wrote: “Parents deserve the right to watch their children play! But it’s ok for others to gather in restaurants, bars, Home Depot and Walmart?! Some things are ok but others aren’t? Control needs to stop!”

Shawnea Stewart, of Arkansas City, noted: “My son is a senior this year and we will all be devastated if his father and I are not allowed to attend. He is my last child in school and I just can’t imagine not being there to cheer him on while he is doing what he loves!! Please, please!!!! Allow 2 tickets per player!!”

And Matt Deters, of Baileyville, pointed out: “They’re my kids, not yours. Parents need to be there for support and also in case of injuries. 30 years ago I was one of those kids that ended up in a hospital 2 hours from home at an away game. As a 17 year old at the time, I was sure grateful my parents were there and were at the hospital as soon as I was. If you want to see how to space out 24 parents with masks on each side of a gym, find a church service this Sunday and see how it’s done!”

The Sentinel wrote to each KSHSAA board member asking them to explain their votes; their responses will be published in a few days.

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