Progressive school districts in northern Virginia are citing a debunked study to defy the state’s Republican governor in their decision to continue enforcing mask mandates for even the youngest students. On January 15, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who just was inaugurated, declared an end to mask mandates in the state’s public schools, declaring that parents may now decide whether their kids will wear masks.
Youngkin’s executive order met with vociferous opposition from school districts in progressive areas. Several districts—including Arlington County and Alexandria City — vowed to defy the order, with the encouragement of White House press secretary Jen Psaki. In response, the governor said he would pursue all legal options to compel schools to let parents decide the mask issue for their own children.
As reporter Robby Soave notes,
There is good reason to move away from district-wide mask mandates. In defense of continuing mandatory masking, education officials cited unpersuasive research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that ought to be rejected as the basis for an argument…Arlington Public Schools admitted that their policy of mandatory masking for everyone ages 2 and older came straight from the CDC….Similarly, Alexandria Superintendent Gregory Hutchins (whose own child attends private school) said the district will continue to defer to the CDC’s finding that “masks, combined with multiple other ACPS mitigation measures, have been effective in helping to protect the collective health and safety of our students and staff and keep our schools open for in-person learning.” Hutchins’ letter to the community suggests that the mask requirement might get more stringent, rather than less: He said that he has received shipments of KN95 masks, and the alternative will be double-masking. Nearly two years into the pandemic, the public education bureaucracy’s desire to compel all students to vigorously conceal their faces hasn’t weakened—in fact, it’s growing stronger.
But the CDC’s research on schoolwide mask mandates is much less impressive than the agency seems to think. The Atlantic has highlighted numerous problems with its recommendations, which were based on a “profoundly misleading” study of Arizona schools.
It should be noted that other countries are far less militant about masking in schools. The World Health Organization does not advise masks for children ages 6 and under. The European Union recommends that students in K-8 schools be allowed to unmask.