TUHSD administration addresses mountain biking risk factors with new protocols

An+illustration+of+the+confusion+surrounding+the+future+of+the+TUHSD+high+school+mountain+biking+clubs.

Dominic Haggard

An illustration of the confusion surrounding the future of the TUHSD high school mountain biking clubs.

On May 11, the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) administration held a meeting with mountain biking team coaches and advisors to discuss the operations of the Archie Williams, Redwood, and Tamalpais High School teams in regards to current board policies and administrative regulations. Although the board states that their intention was never to do away with the mountain biking teams, many coaches and riders left the meeting with the impression that the teams would be cut.

“[The board CFO, Corbett Elson] told us it was the ‘end of the road’ for our status as school clubs,” co-head coach of the Archie Williams mountain biking team, Dylan Riley, said.

The TUHSD administration informed the coaches of four major changes that would be made to the mountain biking clubs. They stated that no club finances will go through the district, that there will be no field trips or absences excused for students participating in the club, that no staff can be involved in the clubs, and that the clubs cannot be affiliated with any school or district names. The TUHSD board declared that these changes would be effective on July 1, 2021. 

These changes were put into action based on the results of a recent district commissioned risk assessment of mountain biking, which then led to the meeting on May 11, as the assessment showed that the teams were not in line with the TUHSD safety policies and regulations. Furthermore, mountain biking is not a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) sanctioned sport, which goes against the district’s usual practice of only sponsoring CIF sanctioned sports. 

Shortly after the meeting, the community responded with discontent. Taz Fruhauf, a junior at AWHS, created a petition titled “Reverse the killing of the mountain bike teams in the tam district” that garnered over 3,200 signatures within 4 days. Kate Courtney, a professional mountain bike racer for the Scott-SRAM MTB Racing Team, even shared the petition on her personal Instagram account.

“It really is incredible the outreach of the community as a whole in this situation,” said Tony Heffernan, a sophomore and member of the AWHS mountain biking club.

On May 15, the TUHSD administration sent an email to district families regarding the recent controversy surrounding the potential elimination of mountain biking. 

“It was never the intention of the District or Board to disband mountain biking, however, it appears that not all present for the meeting left the table with the same understanding and some misinformation has gone out to the community,” the TUHSD admin said in the email.

The TUHSD administration sent a follow-up email on May 21 after two meetings regarding the future status of the teams. The email announced that for the 2021-22 season, the teams will continue being sponsored clubs in accordance with the district’s new guidelines. This means that the mountain biking clubs are able to keep their ties with their respective schools. According to the TUHSD administration, the only lasting change regarding the teams will circulate around the new protocols. 

“This means they will operate much the same as they have in the past, with the exception of requiring student waivers for participation, district oversight of background checks and mandated training for coaches on sexual harassment prevention, child abuse prevention and mandated reporting,” the TUHSD administration said. 

Furthermore, the team was provided with insurance through the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). 

“We are pleased by this more reasonable approach but are concerned that this may be reversed in the future. We would like to see the board adopt a resolution that protects our program if the staff changes their minds,” Riley said.  

Despite that the district’s intentions were not to disband the teams or cause worry in the community, the May 11 meeting incited a storm of outrage among TUHSD mountain biking team members, fans, and families. After all the controversy, the TUHSD mountain biking teams will continue to be school-affiliated clubs, but this time under more definitive district protocols. 

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