Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) has called a Senate Education Committee hearing for Monday, April 26 to discuss the guidelines and decision-making of both the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) regarding youth sports policies. Testifiers include Executive Director of the Minnesota State High School League Erich Martens, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Executive Director of Let Them Play MN Dawn Gillman, and students and parents from around the state.
“The governor’s order requiring high school student-athletes to wear masks was among his most controversial, even before the controversy that derailed the state tournament plans of several schools last month,” said Sen. Chamberlain. “These are consequential decisions in the lives of these kids, but so far all we have received from folks in charge is finger-pointing and blame-shifting. Minnesotans deserve to know who is calling the shots.”
While mask mandates in youth sports have been a topic throughout the last several months, the issue has become more prevalent due to recent events surrounding the Hill-Murray boys hockey team. Last month, they played against White Bear Lake to secure a spot in the state hockey tournament. Due to a potential COVID exposure during that game, Hill-Murray was forced into quarantine a week before the tournament was scheduled to begin. Hill-Murray presented a plan to play their opening game one day later, and though the changes were agreed to by the opposing team, the Minnesota State High School League declined to approve play citing postseason guidelines. However, recent communication from MSHSL claims that MDH was ultimately responsible for the decisions. MDH has claimed the guidance comes from the Governor.
Joining the committee hearing is Senator Karin Housley (R-Stillwater), after having previously sent a letter to Governor Walz urging him to step into the conversation to develop standard recommendations that span all youth sports, instead of treating certain sports differently.
“We need to get to the bottom of this situation,” said Sen. Housley. “Our youth sports programs have suffered from a lack of consistency in terms of protocol, and our kids have unfairly been left to face the consequences. I have previously asked for clarity from Governor Walz and MDH but received no answer. We need to know who is making the decisions, and we need all parties to come to the table to give our kids some stability. I’m glad masks won’t be required for outdoor spring sports, but someone needs to answer for the damage done to youth sports seasons up to this point.”
MDH announced last week that masks would not be required in outdoor youth sports. Questions asked in the hearing will seek to understand the decision-making process of MDH and Governor Walz, how the information has been communicated to schools, and the reasoning behind cancelling multiple games throughout the Fall and Winter sports seasons.