‘Ensure the safety and welfare of all students’: Are VA schools right to sue Gov. Youngkin over masks?


Fact Box

  • Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin was elected Virginia's 74th Governor on November 2, 2021, and was sworn into office on January 15, 2022. It is the first time a Republican has won the office since 2009.  
  • In response to Governor Youngkin’s executive order regarding parental rights with student mask-wearing, seven Virginia school districts filed a lawsuit with a press release stating, “Today’s action is not politically motivated. These seven school divisions would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the governor to ensure the safety and welfare of all students.” 
  • On January 15, 2022, Governor Youngkin signed 11 first-day executive actions, including, ending Critical Race Theory in public education, allowing parents to make decisions on masks in schools, and asking the Attorney General to investigate the Virginia Parole Board. 
  • An August 2021 Gallup poll found that 48% of K-12 parents say students should be required to wear masks, while 41% say no students should wear masks.

Siam (Yes)

On his first day in office, Republican Governor Youngkin issued an executive order stating that masks would no longer be mandatory in Virginia schools and patients had a right to decide whether to mask their child or not. The governor added that universal masking requirements were 'ineffective and impractical,' impeding learning. But seven Virginia school districts have rightfully sued the newly-inaugurated governor for making mask-wearing optional in pre-K12 schools claiming that the welfare and safety of the children have been compromised. 

Youngkin has overstepped his constitutional authority to guide school districts, especially regarding COVID, as he is neither a physician nor up to date with the latest literature on transmission of COVID in schools. Schools nationwide have been abiding by guidelines from the CDC, which recommends staff, students, and visitors wear a mask at schools, irrespective of the vaccination status, to prevent the transmission of COVID in classrooms. 

There is already a severe shortage of teachers all over the nation due to COVID infections. If more teachers contract COVID from unmasked students, no staff will be available to teach students. If only one child was infected and remained asymptomatic, this could impact everyone: teachers and students alike. Likewise, with a severe shortage of testing kits and recommended treatments, masking has become one of the best ways to prevent transmission of COVID. Already, surges of outbreaks have been reported in many schools, severely compromising learning and staffing. Without masking, the lives of children and staff are placed at risk, but more importantly, a child infected at school can affect other members of the household.

Curtice (No)

Seven Virginia school districts have sued Governor Glenn Youngkin to stop his executive order that ended mandatory mask requirements for Virginia public schools, claiming it's for the 'safety and welfare of all students.'

A little perspective and common sense are in order here, something which continues to be lacking in most COVID policies and discussions. According to the CDC's own numbers, as of January 19, 727 children ages 0-17 have died from COVID since the onset of the pandemic. That is 0.11% of all deaths for ages 0-17. By contrast, 858 children 0-17 died from the combined 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 flu seasons. More children died from the flu during those two years than have from COIVD. The total number of months for the combined flu seasons mentioned above is about eight months, whereas the COVID numbers cover more than 24 months.

The efficacy of facemasks for protecting school-age children from contracting or spreading COVID is uncertain at best. As Trish Greenhalgh, professor of primary healthcare services at the University of Oxford, said, 'Most cloth coverings are just fashion accessories.'

Further, there are other negative consequences for masking school children. Masking is psychologically stressful for children and disrupts learning. In addition, reading facial expressions is important to child development and learning. Not only that, the UK never masked school children under 12, and even the WHO does not recommend masking young children

Any cost-benefit analyses have gone out the window regarding COVID's many restrictive policies, such as mandatory masks for children and school closures, in the name of 'safety and welfare.' The long-term costs of masking children in school most likely far outweigh any perceived benefits.

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