Even though Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin recently signed an executive order that renders masks optional for students, teachers, and staff in the state’s public school system, numerous schools have openly defied the governor by continuing to require masks due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Washington Post, a total of 69 districts, which constitute two-thirds of the state’s student population, mandate masks for all students while they are inside school facilities. In addition, the districts that followed the governor’s orders and made masks optional for students were located in areas that voted for Youngkin in the recent gubernatorial election.
According to remarks from the Dean of George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, Mark Rozell, to the Washington Post, “these findings lay bare the absurdity of the governor’s claims that he is listening to the parents.”
Rozell continued on to detail how most parents “disagree with what he is doing,” especially since he appears “to be listening primarily to the parents of a particular political stripe,” notably the individuals who make “the most noise” over the course of a highly partisan political campaign.
Per Rozell, these individuals “in no way represent a consensus among parents of public school children.”
Todd Belt, who serves as the Director of the Graduate School Political Management program at George Washington University, also observed that the ideological “breakdown clearly shows how partisan the issue of education has become” during the pandemic.”
While reopening schools was not a “terribly partisan” decision, other issues regarding school operations became highly controversial, including pandemic related-issues, such as vaccine skepticism and mask mandates, as well as curriculum-related issues, notably critical race theory (CRT).
In his own remarks to the Washington Post, Youngkin declared that parents have a right to opt out from mask mandates as they, rather than school districts, can ascertain the best course of action for their own children.
In addition, a spokesperson for Youngkin also released a separate statement, observing that “localities are fighting over something they already have the ability to do,” while the state of Virginia has long “sidestepped the importance” of student and parental rights.
The governor is merely “giving students and parents an opt-out of mask mandates,” the spokesperson concluded.