LODGE GRASS — Lodge Grass Schools Superintendent Trivian Rides The Bear issued a statement Tuesday explaining her decision to request the removal of a player at halftime of the Indians' football game Sept. 17 against Fairview due to COVID-19 protocols.

Rides The Bear, who did not respond to requests for comment from 406mtsports.com and The Billings Gazette for the first report on the incident Sept. 22, said she wanted to "provide a factual account of the rationale and actions taken by the school district in accordance with established District Policy and State Statute, to address misinformation circulating in the community."

On that Friday night in Lodge Grass, Rides The Bear approached athletic director Dee Pretty On Top and head football coach Jerry Harris at halftime to request the removal of a student-athlete from the game over contact tracing.

The player, who also runs cross country, had ridden the previous weekend on a bus on which a female team member had tested positive. The student-athlete, who was vaccinated for COVID-19, subsequently quarantined for five days and was tested five times during the week, including the morning of the Fairview game.

All five tests were negative.

Pretty On Top and Harris both declined to remove the player, in part citing a lack of a written district COVID-19 policy. The following Monday both were suspended. Harris was temporarily reinstated two days later for the team's Thursday game against Circle, but Rides The Bear sought the termination of both at a special board meeting this past Wednesday, asserting "gross insubordination".

After hearing arguments in a packed board room, no motions were offered and both Pretty On Top and Harris were retained. Harris coached the team against Broadus last week.

In her statement, Rides The Bear said she was acting in accordance with District Policy 3417 and a Montana statute while also following recommendations and guidance of community medical professionals.

"(We) did act to implement management and control procedures which reflected the guidance outlined in policy, statutory administrative procedures and best practice recommendations provided by both the Big Horn County Health Department and Indian Health Service quarantine protocols," she wrote.

Rides The Bear said district policy also authorizes the administration to "temporarily exclude from school attendance (school activities) a student who exhibits symptoms of a communicable disease such as COVID-19 or who is identified as a close contact (exposed) to COVID-19, that is readily transmitted in a school setting (Policy 3417)."

The Indian Health Services guidelines, she continued, recommend a 10-day quarantine for anyone identified as in close contact or exposed to COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status.

Rides The Bear further noted the higher mortality rate among Native Americans and the "disproportionate burden of COVID-19 illness and deaths during the pandemic." 

The administration and Board of Trustees, she concluded, "will continue to act in the best interests of all students when implementing established District Policies and following the guidance and recommendations of community health professionals."

Email Jeff Welsch at jeff.welsch@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @406sportswelsch

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