On the evening of April 27th, the Vail Governing Board was in a regularly scheduled study session where they were discussing employee healthcare benefits. The meeting was interrupted by a group of approximately 150 people. Some of them pushed past Vail staff and refused to cooperate.

The group included some Vail parents and others from Maricopa County and around the state, some of whom were armed. Inappropriate comments from some in the crowd included calling board members and staff murderers, child abusers, communists, Nazis, etc. Many in the crowd, especially parents, were there to simply express their concern about the district’s mask requirement.

The district called 911 after the boardroom reached capacity and people in the hallway refused to comply with requests given by district staff. District staff were told by a Pima County Deputy to adjourn the meeting. As a result, the study session was adjourned, and the subsequent board meeting was cancelled. Many of the Vail parents left at that time, but over 100 remained to protest for several hours, refusing to leave against VUSD and PCSD repeated requests.

In an attempt to get the group to leave peacefully, two members of the governing board and Superintendent Carruth agreed to speak to five students and their parents privately so their concerns could be heard.

It was posted on some social media sites that the board was replaced and the mask mitigation lifted. However, board members can only be elected by a vote of the community through an official election process. The board remains in place and unchanged. Masks are still required on district property.

The following statement was released by John Carruth:

Dear Parents and Vail Community Members,

On April 28th I gave a press conference regarding what occurred on April 27th and shared the following statement:

In the Vail School District, we seek to provide parents with safe and nurturing school communities where their children can obtain a high-quality education.

We have long valued and respected parent choice. We have long valued engaging with, and listening to our parents.

For over 26 years, I have stood shoulder to shoulder with so many of our parents and community members as we worked to tackle tough issues. Whether it be crafting our ACT Statement in response to the Columbine tragedy, building new schools to ease classroom overcrowding, working with faith leaders to host backpack drives, or working with business leaders to develop a local chamber of commerce, we know that when we work together we can do hard things.

This past year has been intense and emotional. Providing education during this pandemic has produced an endless series of new challenges to overcome. It has also brought about many equal yet opposite truths.

We have always welcomed the voice of parents in shaping critical decisions within our district.

We should be able to conduct a safe meeting where parents, students, staff, and school board members can have thoughtful and respectful conversations to discuss various issues before the board.

Unfortunately, a group of people who live outside our county attempted to take over the board meeting last Tuesday evening leaving our actual parents without the opportunity to address the board.

This pandemic has taken a toll on all of us, but we cannot let it take our civility. Our students deserve more from us. They deserve an end to the school year with the least amount of disruptions. With only 20 days of school left, we feel it is prudent to continue the mitigation measures known to our students and staff so they can finish the year safe and strong. These mitigation strategies, including the use of masks, are in place until they expire at the end of June.

We need the help of our entire Vail Community to achieve this. I am asking you to not focus on what divides us, but what unites us; the love for the children of our community.

John Carruth – Superintendent

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