Governor Changing Mask Mandate Sparks Debate

Governor Youngkin made an executive order to lift the mask mandate on public schools across Virginia. This action sparked conflict between the state government and many school districts as tensions continued to rise over masks in schools. 

In Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order Number 2, he emphasizes that it is the parents’ right, not the government’s, to make decisions concerning their children. He stated that parents may be allowed to elect for their children to be opted out of any mask mandate in effect at their child’s school or educational program without providing a reason.

On Monday, January 24th, about a dozen parents protested in front of Woodgrove High School’s doors after the LCPS school board voted to continue the mask mandate. These parents held signs as they called out to students with phrases such as, “Freedom fighters,” “Mask free Mondays,”  and “Free your faces.”

On the day of the protest and the rest of that week, students who refused to wear a mask in school were directed to an alternative location in the school, where they completed school work virtually. 

Parents filed a lawsuit against LCPS claiming that the school board was violating the law by refusing to comply with Youngkin’s optional mask order. In turn, seven Virginia school districts filed a lawsuit against Youngkin to reverse this policy. 

This situation was taken to rule in the Supreme Court of Virginia where the judge issued an order which temporarily blocked the governor from overruling mask mandates. Therefore, Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, Hampton, Prince William, and Richmond schools continued to enforce mask policies until the contradicting legal decision was made.

Governor Youngkin signed a bill on February 16, allowing parents to opt their students out of mask wearing in schools. He gave the schools no later than March 1st to comply with this bill, while also keeping schools open for in-person instruction.

A decision was made at the Loudoun County Circuit Court on February 16; masks would now be optional on all school property with the exception of school buses. Parents and students are expected to evaluate the risks and come to their own conclusion surrounding mask wearing. 

Students who have previously faced disciplinary actions for not acting in accordance with the prior county-wide mask policy will have their records erased of any consequences regarding masking.

These days, students and staff are seen in the hallways of Woodgrove High School with and without masks.

Mimi Forrester, Mya Haines, and Izzy Burley (left to right). (Robbie Showers)