Jan. 14, 2021, Letters to the Editor

Issues with the high school


Over the past several months I have had numerous people ask me why my three teenage daughters no longer attend Douglas High School. They told me that they had heard some disgusting and spurious rumors impugning the great character of my daughters.

I have refrained from publicly responding until after the NIAA, the governing body for high school sports, ruled on my daughters’ athletic eligibility, knowing that these types of rumors, if left unchecked, can cause substantial damage. I know responding now can only hurt my work as a public servant because it will make some powerful people in Douglas County mad but being a protective parent is the most important thing in my life.

After a three-hour hearing, the NIAA determined that the environment at Douglas High School in which my children attended was toxic and unsafe and granted my girls’ immediate athletic eligibility.

An abundance of evidence presented at the hearing showed that my children were exposed to racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and vulgar sexual remarks; they were exposed to drugs and alcohol in and out of school; classmates and friends were physically assaulted and threatened with physical assault, another was sexually assaulted at the school, and two of my children were ridiculed and demeaned by their teammates with nothing being done by their coaches.

Last year, we filed a bullying complaint on behalf of our daughter; however, the former principal at the school and the current superintendent swept the allegations under the rug.

In the NIAA hearing, the former principal, who is now head of Human Resources, made false statements under oath about his handling of the investigation. He provided no logical response for interviewing only four of the 29 potential witnesses. He admitted he never followed up with our daughter to ascertain who the perpetrators were after she completed her basketball season, even though he was told in a previous interview she would provide the names. He also admitted he failed to put into place a written plan to protect our daughter’s physical and emotional well-being as required by state statute.

One of the main reasons we moved to Douglas County was that the high school was ranked number 1 for public high schools in Nevada. The school has some wonderful teachers, administrators, and coaches.

Unfortunately, certain people in charge of the school and the school district allowed a toxic environment.

Moving our children out of Douglas High School was a tough decision for my wife and I and has resulted in some difficult circumstances; however, we felt it was in the best interest of our children.

Danny Tarkanian

The district responds


The Douglas County School District takes a great deal of pride in reinforcing the values and positive reputation that our community and citizens hold dear. Therefore, it is very alarming to hear that a newly elected member of the Douglas County commissioners, and someone relatively new to our community, would use his elected position in a public county commissioners meeting to air personal and inaccurate grievances against our schools.

The school district is not going to address Mr. Tarkanian’s personal complaints due to strict confidentiality laws. However, the district is impelled to clarify the record on two inflammatory statements:

1. Commissioner Tarkanian’s statement that a student was sexually assaulted at Douglas High School is false.

2. Tarkanian’s statement that the district swept the bullying allegation of his daughter under the carpet is false. The district thoroughly investigated the complaint, and our findings were upheld by the Nevada Department of Education.

With respect to Tarkanian’s allegations of racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism being pervasive within the district, we take those claims seriously and fully investigate any claim reported to the district.

We usually choose to let our actions, transparency, and active communication with our community speak for us. We are constantly looking to improve our practices, procedures, and outcomes. Our students, parents, staff, and community deserve and expect nothing less.

Keith Lewis
Superintendent of Schools

Tahoe bears the brunt of VHRs


Vacation home rentals have changed Tahoe Township neighborhoods and disrupted the living conditions of our residents. Some neighborhoods have 25 percent of the residences permitted as a VHR.

Can we expect that these VHRs, frequently hosting large numbers of visitors, to be free from noise issues, parking problems, trash, traffic, illegal fireworks, fights, shootings? What will happen if VHR growth continues? The recent ban on VHRs in South Lake Tahoe is being upheld by the courts, thereby increasing new VHR investments to all-time highs in the Tahoe Township.

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners appears focused on keeping the rural character of the valley intact. We applaud their efforts to do this, however, why is there a double standard? There are statutes and ordinances permitting VHRs in the Tahoe Township and none in the valley. How is it legal for the county to allow VHRs in the Tahoe Township and not in the valley?

The BOCC has been studying the VHR problem for years including the formation of a task force which offered recommendations to mitigate VHR issues.

While I support this studied approach to determining how many VHRs should be allowed anywhere in the county, it is time for action. This issue is not the making of this newly elected BOCC members, but it is now incumbent upon them to move quickly on the recommendations of the VHR Task Force or stop issuing new permits until the ordinances have been fully reviewed, approved and implemented.

Jeffrey E McDaniel

Remembering Coach Smalley


Over the last week, I have been moved by the stories of Rod Smalley as a football player, coach and most of all, as a father. Though these reflections have touched my heart, I would be remiss if I did not draw attention to the life-changing impact that Rod had on students, families and educators within Douglas County’s educational community.

As a former teacher and principal of ASPIRE Academy High School, I feel blessed to have many memories of Rod interacting with our staff, students and families. In fact, I can vividly see that smile on Rod’s face, and hear a small half-laugh, as he said to a kid, “There is no way you are leaving here today until you complete that assignment!” Which meant Rod was staying there too… to support, encourage and hold this student, and many others, accountable.

As a teacher and truancy officer, Rod interacted with a multitude of students who found it challenging to get to school or to achieve academically in their classes. Many of these students will tell you that when they ultimately found success, Rod Smalley had something to do with it.

He showed up at their houses, he met with their families, he collaborated with teachers to support their academic achievement. Rod made an indelible difference in the lives of these kids. At ASPIRE in particular, with fierce love, he pushed our kids to “cross that stage” for graduation! Rod, with his ASPIRE colleagues, believed in our students’ ability to succeed and he showed up with all of his heart to make sure they eventually believed in themselves too.

For many former students who are successful citizens today, Smalley played a role in who they became as adults. He listened when a student was hurting, showed patience when a student was frustrated and gave a good, albeit metaphorical, kick in the behind when a student was in need (And, yes, even students will agree that, sometimes, they are in need!).

Rod had this innate ability to practice empathy and set high expectations at the same time. This is a rare gift in an educator, and Rod had it! He was a dedicated father, a phenomenal football player and coach, and he was an impactful educator. ASPIRE is a school, but it is also a FAMILY. With sincerity in my heart, and for all former and current ASPIRE family members, let me say publicly today what I wish I could say personally: Mr. Smalley, thank you for making a difference in our lives.

Miki Trujillo 


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