Two days after Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order making masks optional, parents and children who showed up maskless voiced contempt for Loudoun County Public School’s decision to maintain a mask mandate.
During Tuesday evening’s school board meeting, almost all of the people who signed up to speak were critical of the Loudoun school system’s decision to continue to require masks.
On Monday, five Northern Virginia school systems filed a lawsuit against Youngkin, arguing the state constitution gives local school boards the authority to run their districts. It also cites a state law that requires school systems to follow federal health guidelines, which include recommendations for universal masking.
Since Monday, students in Loudoun County whose families have chosen that they not wear masks have been sent to socially distanced rooms, including auditoriums and libraries, where they have worked independently.
One student said he ended up in the main office of his school.
“I was literally sitting in that office, doing nothing except a tiny bit of schoolwork, that took me like two minutes. That was the worst school experience I’ve ever had. It felt lonely and disappointing. It felt like solitary confinement, honestly.”
Another parent echoed: “My grade kids have been put in a room by themselves, and they’ve not been receiving any instruction.”
Many parents raised their voices, accusing school board members and the school system of refusing to comply with the new governor’s executive order, which strives to give parents more say over how schools are run.
“It’s time to quit hiding behind our children, and asking them to sacrifice their youth, for your fear,” said one father.
A few parents thanked the school board and school system for choosing to maintain masking, during the surge of the omicron variant.
“We’ve never had transmission rates as high as they are right now in Loudoun County. I’m hoping they’re coming down. I don’t want to stay like this forever. But the only way to keep our schools open, in person, is to continue masking,” said one mother.
On Monday, Virginia’s acting health commissioner, Dr. Colin Greene, told WTOP he questioned the effectiveness of masking with the highly-contagious omicron strain.
Another parent was critical of the tone of the public comment periods in the county’s school board meetings: “The school board has much more important things to do than sit here, month after month, night after night, being abused and threatened by people who reject the scientific evidence about how to mitigate the spread of COVID.”