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With multiple schools in Virginia defying Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order making mask-wearing optional in K–12 education, some students and parents have mobilized to resist what they are calling an illegitimate requirement. In some recent cases, schools have either segregated noncompliant students from the general population or kicked them out altogether.
After arriving on campus without a mask Monday morning, Nicholas Sanchez, a senior at Potomac Falls High School in Loudoun County, was immediately escorted into a room for a lecture from administrators, including principal Brandon Wolfe, on the merits of mask-wearing, Sanchez told National Review. Rebutting their protestations, Sanchez said he was simply following the governor’s executive order banning mask mandates for students and faculty in Virginia. Refusing to wear one still, Sanchez was sent to the auditorium to learn in isolation from his classmates, he said.
He had reminded the staff that the school’s guidelines, sent to the student body via email Sunday night, meant there was supposed to be consultation with parents.
“I said, ‘Your issue is not with me. It’s with my parents, who have been granted to make this decision by the governor.’ I said, ‘It’s great that you guys are telling me this, but it’s irrelevant to me because that decision is going to be made by my father’,” Sanchez added.
“It seems like we’re regressing. We’re back to separate but equal. We’re kind of going backward. Is he expected to drink from a different water fountain? What’s the endgame to this separation, especially when it’s completely arbitrary and capricious?” said Sanchez’s father, who asked to remain anonymous.
Sanchez interacts with his classmates at extracurricular activities, in the parking lot before school, and even during lunch hour, his father said, but then is expected to sit alone during class time. The father said he requested clarification from the administration after he was informed that his son would be separated from his classmates, but he didn’t get an answer.
“I needed to know what that meant. Is he going to receive the same level of instruction as his classmates?” he said he asked school officials.
On the contrary, Nicholas Sanchez said, there was little communication from his classes and teachers throughout the day, despite the principal and assistant principal promising accommodations, so he had no choice but to sit at his computer and work on assignments from the previous week.
“By 2 p.m., all I had received was a scratch piece of paper telling me an assignment was due Friday and an email from my teacher telling me I should check the absence policy,” he told National Review.
Principal Wolfe did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Similarly, a fifth-grader at Banneker Elementary in Loudoun County was expelled from his school on Monday for showing up without a mask, his mother told the Daily Wire.
“My son right now is sitting in the principal’s office. We have a special exception to go to the school we’re at so my son can go to the school with the kids he started with. They’re now telling me his exception is being rescinded for disciplinary reasons. For a one-time incident. He’s never been in trouble before,” she noted.
A Youngkin spokesperson told National Review that the state will continue to encourage the insubordinate schools to respect the rights of parents on masking.
“We are disappointed that some are still not listening to parents who want to protect children’s health and well-being,” the spokesperson said. “Data shows that constant mask-wearing can have harmful side effects on some of our children, and who better to recognize those side effects than their parents. We encourage students and parents to communicate any reports of disciplinary action, separation, or expulsion to email@example.com.”
While some schools have rejected the school masking phase-out, support for it appears to be growing on both sides of the aisle. Democratic state senator Chap Petersen of Fairfax County urged the school board to define an “off-ramp” for mask mandates very soon, or he said the state legislature will have to intervene to stop them, the Daily Wire first reported.
“That means plainly stated metrics as well as a final deadline (e.g. Valentine’s Day). They should announce that immediately. The forced masking policy is going to end very soon, i.e. in a few weeks. Otherwise, the General Assembly will again step in. IT IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE LONG-TERM SOLUTION,” Petersen wrote in an email obtained by the Daily Wire to the Fairfax County Parents Association.