Fifty-three students in two Virginia school districts were suspended this week for going to school without a mask. The schools’ draconian measures violate Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order making masks optional for students and their parents.
As of today, at least 29 students in Loudoun County and 24 students in Fairfax County have been suspended. Initially, the schools exiled maskless students to libraries, gymnasiums, or auditoriums. Then, after about a week, the “accommodations” ended, and suspensions began en masse.
Loudoun County Public Schools Public Information Officer Wayde Byard explained, “They were suspended under an existing policy, 8210, for willful or continued disobedience of school rules and school personnel. The issue involved was a failure to follow LCPS COVID-mitigation measures.”
In Fairfax County, schools appear to be punishing maskless students under the dress code. One parent, Stephanie Lundquist-Arora, whose sons were suspended for “dress code violations,” believes that the administrators classify the violation as a dress code issue because they know they are on shaky ground legally.
“I’m very disappointed,” the governor said of the districts’ crackdown, “and as I have very clearly articulated, parents should have, and based on my executive order, do have the right to decide whether their child wears a mask or not. And this is about their child’s health. This is about who is best positioned to make a decision with regards to their child’s health.”
Gov. Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares filed a motion Wednesday to join a lawsuit filed by three Loudoun County parents over the ordeal. That lawsuit “seeks an order requiring the school board to rescind its universal mask mandate and comply with Executive Order 2.”
After Youngkin issued the order against mask mandates, the Loudoun County school board voted to uphold its mask mandate. In addition, seven Virginia school boards filed a lawsuit in Arlington County Circuit Court against the order, claiming it was a violation of state law.
Though Virginia has been a focal point for the mask discussion, similar measures recently made headlines in California. A 9-year-old boy at Garden Grove Elementary School was forced to sit outside alone for hours for not wearing his mask, while a teacher physically barred him from entering the classroom. The child reportedly has ADHD and tried to comply with the mask mandate for the majority of the year, but has since refused to wear it due to anxiety and stress.
According to one report, for multiple days the child had to sit outside alone on the playground to do his schoolwork, endured chants from other kids about mask-wearing while teachers stood idly by, and was counted truant for five days by the school. Finally, school authorities took it as far as threatening to call the state’s Child Protective Services on his parents, barring the child from the campus and citing the child as a “clear and present danger.”
In spite of mounting evidence that cloth masks are ineffective to prevent spread and detrimental to learning and mental health for children, many school districts around the nation are doubling down on mask mandates. Whose interests do such mandates serve?