Bristol, Va. School Board tables lawsuit against Gov. Ralph Northam over stadium capacity

Keeping Schools Safe

BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL)- The Bristol, Virginia School Board decided not to take legal action against Governor Ralph Northam for his recent executive order limiting crowd size at outdoor school events.

“The structure that’s being handed down from Richmond is unacceptable for families and the students…and the community,” said board member Frank Goodpasture III. “We regret that we have to do it this way but I think it’s the right thing.”

After a 45-minute closed-door meeting with their lawyer, the Board of Education decided to table a lawsuit and host football games across the state line at Tennessee High School.

“Litigation is costly and as long as we have a viable option without going that route, that’s what we’re doing at this point,” said board member Randy Alvis. “You take your band and your cheerleaders away, it’s a very quiet stadium. They’re a vital part of the whole ambiance of a Friday night football game.”

The cost to rent the Stone Castle at Tennessee High School is costs just under $2,000. Capacity is expanded to 2,000 fans and cheerleaders and band members are considered to be participants.

“The fact that they have to go across the state line to be recognized as a participant to me is very disrespectful and is concerning,” said Bristol Virginia Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Perrigan. “We want to make that opportunity available for our band and cheerleaders and if we have to go across state lines to get it done, that’s what we’ll do.”

Perrigan says the Governor’s executive order is “unfair” and “inconsistent.”

They’ve had several legal challenges to their executive orders and they’ve won every one of them,” Perrigan said. “I think ours is a little bit different because you can be looking at the exact same venue on a Friday night and have a concert with 1,000 people but if you host a football game there the next day, you can only have 250.”

He also hopes this sends a message to Richmond.

“Public schools know how to do this. We know how to do it right,” said Perrigan. “We know how to do it safely and hopefully by the time we get to graduation, common sense will prevail.”

As the spring football season gets underway, another concern is on the minds of the board.

“The way graduation is right now, it’s not a recreational event, it’s a social event so in the Commonwealth you can only have 25 people at a social event,” said Alvis. “Hundreds of students around the Commonwealth are going to be missing out on graduation.”

The board says a lawsuit might be considered again if restrictions aren’t eased leading up to graduation.

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