Youngkin calls for Virginians to respect individual masking decisions

Hours after a Loudoun County judge ruled the county’s public schools could no longer enforce a mask mandate, effective immediately, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Thursday that Virginians should respect each other’s opinions and decisions on whether to wear a mask or not.

Youngkin made the appeal before a receptive crowd at the bustling Leesburg Diner at 8 a.m., as other parents at home were explaining to children that the county’s masking rules had changed overnight.


He said the Wednesday decision by Loudoun County Court to bar the county’s public school system from enforcing its mask mandate showed “that parents have the fundamental right to make this decision for their children, whether to wear a mask or not to wear a mask.”

“And I strongly, strongly, not only encourage, but appeal to all of our better selves, to respect one another. Throughout this entire process, I’ve asked everyone to love one another, to respect these decisions,” Youngkin told WTOP’s Neal Augenstein. “Those decisions that are made by parents are made for particularly good reasons.”

The governor added that “when we have a colleague, a fellow student, a teacher, an administrator, who has a mask on, or doesn’t have a mask on, we should deeply respect that. Deeply respect it.”

Customers in the diner applauded Youngkin’s response.

The Loudoun County ruling late Wednesday by Circuit Court Judge James Fisher immediately halted the county’s public school system from enforcing its mask mandate. Earlier Wednesday, Loudoun County became the first to roll back restrictions, announcing masks would become optional in school beginning Feb. 22.

After the judge’s ruling, Loudoun County Public Schools said that, starting Thursday, students may continue to wear masks if they choose to, but masks will not be required.

“The decision of whether to wear a mask or not is deeply personal for many families; we ask that you respect the decision of others. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable about their choice,” Superintendent Scott Ziegler said in a letter to the school community.

Students who have faced disciplinary action with compliance with the mask mandate will have those consequences removed from their records, as well, LCPS said.

The constitutionality of the bill Youngkin signed Wednesday has been challenged in court, since it takes away powers that have been traditionally given to locally elected school boards.

“We’ll see you in court, Gov. Youngkin,” the ACLU of Virginia said in a tweet.

The pressures of the pandemic and masking in education have merged with politics nationwide.

Republicans are increasingly looking to education as a galvanizing issue that could help them sway voters, according to The Associated Press.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein, Scott Gelman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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