Thanks to the leadership of Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) and State Senator Chap Petersen (D), most Virginia parents have the choice whether to send their child to school in a mask. But in deep blue Northern Virginia, the school districts sued to prevent enforcement of Youngkin’s executive order that let parents opt out of school mask mandates, only to be immediately rebuked by bipartisan legislation in Richmond that will codify the order.
The school districts are not going down without a fight. Recognizing that it will lose the mask-mandate battle, the school board for my family’s school district, Falls Church City Public Schools, adopted a policy that will let parents opt their children out of the district’s mask mandate starting Monday, February 14. But yesterday, our superintendent, Peter Noonan, announced that the children of parents who opt out will be separated from their masked classmates, and he attached a chart clarifying what this “new normal” will look like:
The superintendent also announced that unvaccinated children of parents who opt out “will need to register and participate in weekly PCR screening testing,” regardless of whether their parents consent to the testing.
Following the superintendent’s announcement, our elementary school principal sent this email to all parents:
Instruction at the elementary school level involves many opportunities for children to be close together in small groups or paired learning. Unmasked children will need to remain 6 feet apart from their peers where possible while indoors in accordance with our current mitigation strategies. Our teachers are masterful at creative solutions and all our children will continue to receive our best instruction, but it may look different. Please keep in mind that children can be naturally curious and they often ask each other questions about something that might be new or different. We always do our best to make sure that no child feels marginalized or excluded for any reason, including what they may or may not be wearing.
Your eyes are not deceiving you. At the same time they profess to be doing their “best to make sure that no child feels marginalized or excluded for any reason,” public school officials are announcing that unmasked children will be isolated from their classmates, and unvaccinated unmasked children will be required to undergo weekly medical testing without parental consent.
To state the obvious, isolating children is cruel, inhumane, and traumatic. For example, my husband and I chose to opt out of the mask mandate for our son, who is a fully vaccinated kindergartner with a moderate articulation disorder that is aggravated by masking. How will our son feel when his teachers move his desk away from other students? How will our son feel when his teachers tell his friends to stay far away from him? How are we supposed to explain any of this to our son?
Falls Church City Public Schools prides itself on a commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Last year, when our schools were closed, the school board voted to rename Thomas Jefferson Elementary and George Mason High School. And last April, the school board adopted a much-celebrated, first-ever diversity, equity, and inclusion policy.
Would someone please explain to me how it’s consistent with Falls Church’s commitment to “equity” and “inclusion” to segregate maskless children?