Del. Runion calls for Gov. Northam to allow more students to participate in spring sporting events

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 11:39 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Delegate Chris Runion, serving parts of Augusta and Rockingham counties, has sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam calling on him to amend Executive Order 72 to allow high school band members, cheerleaders, and other extra-curricular activities an opportunity participate in the spring sports season.

Last week, Northam amended EO 72, increasing the number of spectators permitted at outdoor youth sporting events to 250 or 30 percent capacity, and indoor sports can have 25 spectators per field, or 30 percent capacity.

But Runion said here in the Valley, we can do more.

“While the Governor’s revisions are a step in the right direction the 250 person cap is still an arbitrary number,” Runion said.

Runion said he was inspired to reach out to Northam after receiving a letter from an Augusta Co. high school cheerleader. In it, she said the hope of being able to participate in sideline cheerleading was getting her through the school year, and after learning she would not have that opportunity, it has taken a toll on her mental health.

“I looked forward to cheer practice, interacting with others, supporting our football team, and having a purpose,” the student wrote. “Now that has been taken away from me and my teammates by one order from Governor Northam. This makes me feel sad, disappointed, and hopeless. It feels like my freedom has been taken away.”

Runion said cheerleaders, band members, and other students should not be included as “spectators” and instead, as participants. He said this would allow more students to have normal, high school experiences, while not cutting back on the number of spectators, like family and friends, allowed.

He said this is an equity issue to not welcome these students.

“The current rules are one size fits all and that’s not what it should be,” Runion said. “We’ve got facilities that can handle, safely with all the COVID restrictions and all the social distancing guidelines, many more people than what are currently allowed.”

If it can be done safely with social distancing and face coverings, executive orders should not continue to take away these special experiences for students.

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