The Chesterfield County School Board agreed to fire government and history teacher Stephen Roszell for insubordination after he declined to comply with a state-wide mask mandate for teachers. Roszell told The Virginia Star that he would have complied with a local mask mandate from his employer since Virginia is a right-to-work state. However, he sees Governor Ralph Northam’s public health order as an overreach of executive power. He’s also concerned about federal stimulus funds sent to school districts influencing their policy.
“I teach about federalism in history and government, and this is a direct payment essentially from the federal government through the Virginia Department of Education to [Local Education Agencies (LEA)],” Roszell said. “This money is coming directly from the federal government, and localities must follow all the CDC guidelines through 2023.”
“My story of the termination is really just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a much bigger story there,” he said.
Roszell appealed the termination and was able to question officials in a September deposition; the Tuesday board decision was the final step in the process. Roszell said that school officials were courteous and professional.
He said that other teachers have quietly resigned over the mandate, but he has the financial flexibility to protest what he says is state and federal overreach.
“I always told my students to never even trust what I said. Do your own homework, and fact-check me. That does one of two things: either they learn something new, or they find that I’m wrong and I get to learn something new,” he said. “I would tell my students to always continuously ask why until you get to the bottom of it. And yes, students, I am losing the job that, after my wife and kids, is the love of my life. However, sometimes the punishment is worth the knowledge that I can help spread.”
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