Governor Youngkin Issues Executive Orders Banning CRT, Ending Mask Mandate Shortly After Taking Office

Governor Glenn Youngkin signed nine executive orders and two executive directives on Saturday shortly after the inauguration. Three of the orders focus specifically on school policy, banning the use of “divisive concepts,” allowing parents to opt their children out of school mask policies, and requesting Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate the Loudoun County Public Schools.

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Governor Glenn Youngkin Takes Oath of Office, Promises 11 Immediate Executive Actions on CRT, Masks, Vaccines, and Other Campaign Commitments

Governor Glenn Youngkin, Attorney General Jason Miyares, and Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears took their oaths of office on Saturday afternoon, followed by a howitzer salute from the Army National Guard. Then, Youngkin gave his first speech as governor, with an emphasis on a “common path forward” and with renewed promises from his campaign.

“Our politics have become too toxic. Soundbites have replaced solutions — taking precedence over good faith problem-solving,” he said. “My fellow Virginians, I come to this moment, and to this office, knowing we must bind the wounds of division. Restore trust. Find common cause for the common good.”

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Conservative Chesapeake School Board Reverses Decision to Make Masks Optional

The Chesapeake School Board voted five to one on New Year’s Eve to keep masks mandatory for students — a reversal from a December decision to make masks optional after Christmas break. An announcement from the district cited the COVID-19 surge.

“At this meeting, the School Board proposed and approved an amendment to their previous motion from the December 13, 2021 meeting regarding masks for students. Therefore, masks will continue to be required for all
students, staff, and visitors as per the Public Health Order when we return on January 3, 2022. Vaccines and testing for student athletes, however, will remain optional,” Superintendent Jared Cotton wrote.

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Conservative Chesapeake School Board Reverses Decision to Make Masks Optional

The Chesapeake School Board voted five to one on New Year’s Eve to keep masks mandatory for students — a reversal from a December decision to make masks optional after Christmas break. An announcement from the district cited the COVID-19 surge.

“At this meeting, the School Board proposed and approved an amendment to their previous motion from the December 13, 2021 meeting regarding masks for students. Therefore, masks will continue to be required for all
students, staff, and visitors as per the Public Health Order when we return on January 3, 2022. Vaccines and testing for student athletes, however, will remain optional,” Superintendent Jared Cotton wrote.

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School Board Politics Underlie Virginia Beach House Races

Virginia Beach has several competitive House of Delegates races where Republicans hope to make gains that will help power them to a House of Delegates majority.  GOP candidates are focusing on a mix of law-and-order and education policy in a city where school board politics underlie several of the local House races.

In HD 83, Attorney Tim Anderson is challenging Delegate Nancy Guy (D-Virginia Beach), a former school board member. In the past, Anderson has endorsed and legally represented School Board Member Victoria Manning, a member of a conservative minority faction on the school board. Manning herself has pushed for recalls of her fellow school board members, including Vice Chair Kim Melnyk, who is challenging Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) in HD 84. Additionally, 2020 school board candidate Jeffrey Feld is challenging Delegate Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach) in HD 81.

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Virginia Teacher Fired for Refusing to Wear Mask

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.”

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Kentucky Lawmakers Override Governor, Ditch School Mask Mandate

Group of young students at table, reading and wearing masks

Kentucky’s Republican legislature overrode the state’s Democratic governor late Thursday and repealed a statewide public school mask mandate.

The move, reported by the Louisville Courier Journal, came on the final day of a special session called by Gov. Andy Beshear. The mask mandate was repealed as cases in the state increased for the 10th straight week, and as over 30% of Kentucky’s new cases Thursday were in people 18 and younger, according to state data.

The legislature last month moved to significantly limit Beshear’s pandemic-related power, an action that was upheld by multiple judges in the state.

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Fairfax County Parent Organizes Protest Against Student Athlete COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Some parents are protesting the Fairfax County Public Schools COVID-19 vaccine mandate for student athletes. On Tuesday afternoon, a group of a little more than 20 parents protested outside the FCPS Gatehouse Administration Center. FCPS parent Missy Pratt began organizing the protest after Braband’s announcement. Pratt said she’s focused on the vaccine mandate, but she’s also opposed to mask mandates.

“‘No vax, no mask, we push back,’ that was our chant all day long at the rally,” Pratt told The Virginia Star

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Amistad Project Files Lawsuit to Stop Pennsylvania School Mask Mandate

Alison Beam

The Amistad Project, in conjunction with Pennsylvania Senate President pro tempore Jake Corman (R-Centre) and State Representative Jesse Topper (R-Bedford), filed a lawsuit against actions by Pennsylvania acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam.

In the lawsuit, the organization is challenging a new statewide school mask mandate, arguing the new restriction violates state law and is a broad overreach of governmental power.

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Studies Point to Varied Effects of Masking

Crowded street market with people wearing masks

New research published by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) Bangladesh, which tracked mask-wearing among 340,000 Bangladeshi adults, indicates mask usage can considerably reduce the spread of symptomatic COVID-19. 

Some medical professionals, however, remain uneasy about mask mandates in schools because of their possible impact on children’s learning and social health.

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Colorado High School Students Stage Walkout to Protest School Mask Requirement

High school students in Douglas County, Colorado, staged protests Wednesday calling for the end of a classroom mask mandate, ABC 7 Denver reported.

Students from ThunderRidge High School walked out of class around 9:30 a.m. in protest of the classroom mask requirement, ABC 7 reported.

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Roundup: Fight for Schools Submits Petition to Recall Loudoun School Board Member Beth Barts; Other Virginia School Board Updates

Fight for Schools PAC announced Wednesday that they have collected 158 percent of the signatures necessary to ask a court to recall Loudoun School Board Member Beth Barts.

“For five months, Loudoun County has been at the center of local, state, national, and even international media attention. Much of this is due to the actions of Beth Barts. She has shown a complete inability to comply with the law, her own code of conduct, and the basic decency that accompanies being an elected official in the United States of America,” Fight for Schools Executive Director Ian Prior said in a press release.

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Chesapeake School Board Chooses Not to Pass Transgender Policy

The Chesapeake Public Schools Board declined to even vote on passing a transgender policy in its Monday meeting. After hours of public comment advocating for and against both mask policy and the transgender policy, Member Patricia King’s motion to pass the policy died without being seconded by any other board member.

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Craig County School Board Approves Religious, Medical Exemption Forms for Mask Mandates

The Craig County School Board decided Tuesday to provide medical mask mandate exemption forms that don’t require a physician’s signature and religious exemption forms, although the medical exemption form requires an explanation.

“I do not think the physician should have to sign off, no physician is going to sign off on any of these forms,” Vice Chair Gina Smith said. “I think as parents we are responsible for our kids and it should be enough just to have a diagnosis or a medical reason that your child doesn’t need to wear a mask.”

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Commentary: Leave Our Kids Alone

In Alan Parker’s 1982 film, “Pink Floyd—The Wall,” a young boy’s reality turns into a nightmare. It’s post-war England, and the boy—now in his teens and fatherless—sits in a classroom tuning out his bland math lesson and composing poems instead. The teacher—a pedagogical sadist—mocks the boy, and then proceeds to mete out some good, old-fashioned corporal punishment. The boy winces, and overwhelmed with anxiety begins to see his world as an unbearable nightmare of human oppression.

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American Academy of Pediatrics Claims Masks Have No Negative Effects on Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on Thursday argued in a series of tweets that masking in schools seemingly has no negative effects on children.

The medical organization dismissed parental concern over the issue as nonexistent, pledging to provide “real talk” about children wearing masks.

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