One of the hotbeds of the mask mandate debate is the northern Virginia suburb of Loudoun County, where parents, students, and teachers are facing off against county school officials. Children who went to school without wearing masks were separated from classmates by school administrators, which infuriated their parents.
Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order that made mask-wearing optional in public schools, but it did not preclude multiple public school districts from rejecting the order. Loudoun County Public Schools is one of the districts that is resisting the return to normal, mask-free learning in school settings.
When students arrive without wearing a mask to school, the district escorted these students to auditoriums or the library to work on assignments independent of their peers and classmates. Some students have told media networks and outlets that school staff were required to escort them to using the restroom. Parents reiterated their opposition to these forceful tactics and said that it is unfairly impeding their children’s education because some of the students were not being taught by teachers at all.
In a recent board meeting for the district, as reported by news outlet WTOP, one parent said, “My grade kids have been put in a room by themselves, and they’ve not been receiving any instruction.” One student told the board, “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.”
A parent blasted the board when he said, “It’s time to quit hiding behind our children, and asking them to sacrifice their youth, for your fear.”
Several other public speakers thanked the school board for standing by the mask mandate, but none cited any data. Data has consistently shown that mask-wearing does not significantly reduce virus transmission, despite claims from school districts, teachers’ unions, politicians, and public health officials.
Terms for two of the nine board members will end in December 2022, while the other seven board members’ terms expire in December 2023. There is a possibility that at least two board member seats are up for election this year, when parents could make their voice heard and elect new members that share their opinions on mask mandates.