Loudoun County Public Schools Defy Gov. Youngkin’s Order to Lift Mask Mandates

Loudoun County Public Schools Defy Gov. Youngkin's Order to Lift Mask Mandates Glenn Youngkin Glenn Youngkin is sworn in as the 74th Governor of Virginia on the steps of the State Capitol on Jan. 15, 2022 in Richmond, Virginia. Youngkin, who once served as co-CEO of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group, is the first Republican Governor elected to govern the commonwealth since 2009. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

By Nicole Wells | Wednesday, 02 February 2022 11:21 AM

New Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin may have issued an executive order lifting mask mandates in the state’s public schools, but Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) are having none of it.

The school district sent a clear message to students at the end of last week: mask up or pack up.

In a memo last Friday, Blue Ridge Middle School Principal Brion Bell told parents that, as per the district's COVID policy, "masks are not optional" in any school campus building and, beginning Wednesday, students who "willfully" refuse to wear a mask will be suspended from school.

"A student who is suspended because of non-compliance with COVID-mitigation measures may return to school only when they agree to follow COVID-mitigation measures throughout the entire school day and at all indoor school-related events," Bell wrote. "Suspension will continue if COVID-mitigation measures are not followed."

Bell explained that students who arrive at school without a mask will first be asked to wear one and, if they do not have one, one will be provided for them.

If the student refuses to wear a mask, staff will then meet with the student and contact their parent/guardian to determine the reason they will not comply.

"If non-compliance is related to a medical or financial need, the school-based team will develop a plan of action to support the student in following the requirement," the memo read.

Youngkin's order returns the decision about mask-wearing to the parents and notes that, under Virginia law, "parents, not the government, have the fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of their children."

In an update on the district's website on Jan. 26, LCPS Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler said that masking helps in-person learning continue.

"Mask-wearing helps potential close contacts return to school sooner and remain in-person for learning," Ziegler wrote. "Should there be a time when masks become optional, and if the CDC and VDH [Virginia Department of Health] guidance remains as currently written, the number of close contacts will likely increase, which may increase the likelihood of an increased number of whole-class quarantines, or the possibility of whole-school transition to distance learning."

Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter told NBC Washington that the administration was disappointed that school boards were opposed to parents' rights.

"The governor and attorney general are in coordination and are committed to aggressively defending parents' fundamental right to make decisions with regard to their child's upbringing, education and care, as the legal process plays out," Porter said in a statement.

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