Editorial: Masked opponents teach the wrong lessons | Opinion

It didn’t take long for new Governor Glenn Youngkin to make the job of local Virginia public schools that much harder.

Hours after his inauguration on January 15, Youngkin signed an executive order allowing parents to opt out of any requirement that their children wear masks in schools. That Youngkin was easing the state’s COVID-19 restrictions was no surprise — after all, elections have consequences — but that he would do so in such a confusing way was disappointing.

All Youngkin’s order has done is create another round of controversy that local school boards and school systems really don’t need. Indeed, the order appears to conflict with state law passed in the 2021 General Assembly that requires school systems to follow current Centers for Disease Control mitigation guidelines, which currently include masking. .

So, predictably, the case is heading to court, with Prince William County this week joining six other school districts in challenging the order.

In the meantime, public schools – which already have enough to deal with – must figure out what to do with students who – mainly at the request of their parents – refuse to wear masks. Do they send them home or do they punish them in other ways? Separate them from other students? And what about teachers who might be susceptible to COVID due to other health conditions? Are they supposed to stay on the job, teaching in person to a classroom full of unmasked students?

Youngkin attempted to provide support to local school divisions on January 21, when in a statement accompanying more details on his order, he urged students and parents to follow their principals’ guidelines on masking until the courts can rule on the legality of his order. . But it was six days too late. The damage had been done. Virtually every school board in the state had already either waived their masking requirement or reiterated that masking would be necessary until the courts ruled otherwise.

We understand this is a burning issue, with heated arguments on both sides. We don’t like wearing masks any more than anyone else. But local school systems and local principals must have the ability to set and enforce rules. And parents who tell their children to disobey these rules are doing their children a disservice. On Monday morning, outside a school in Loudoun County, parents were giving donuts to students who refused to wear masks. It’s not the civil rights movement; it’s a pandemic.

School boards are publicly elected bodies in Virginia. The Prince William School Board will be elected in November 2023. Parents have every opportunity to speak at school board meetings and elect school board members with whom they disagree. They can protest, march, hold signs and, heck, even write letters to the editor.

But you wouldn’t tell your kid to speed up just because you don’t believe in speed limits. You wouldn’t tell your child not to do homework because you think the teacher is too harsh. And you shouldn’t tell your child not to wear their mask to school until Youngkin’s order is clear.

Otherwise, you are teaching the wrong lessons.

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