FAIRFAX, Va. — Kids returned to school in Fairfax County one day after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin's order to make masks optional took effect. At least two students from one family who chose not to wear masks were given suspension letters Tuesday.
Fairfax County school officials have stressed maintaining their mask policy despite the executive order. FCPS is one of seven school districts in Virginia fighting back by filing a lawsuit to challenge Youngkin's legal authority.
Last week, parents vocalized their plans to send their children to classes without masks per the order. While there is currently no hard data, an FCPS spokesperson said anecdotally, the number of students who showed up maskless was "very low."
David Rich, a Fairfax resident, sent his three children to school with a letter he wrote and the copy of the executive order. He said he gave his kids the choice to wear their mask or not.
"We have encouraged our children to their entire lives to speak up and to use their voices to stand up for themselves and others," Rich told WUSA9. "We don't want them to sheepishly move them to the back of the bus just because some authoritarian told them that's the rule and they must do so."
His son Caleb Rich refused to wear a mask and gave the principal the copy of the letters.
"I gave it to the assistant principal once they pulled me out to suspend me," Caleb Rich said.
His youngest sister did the same thing and also received a suspension letter.
"I chose not to wear my mask because personally I find them uncomfortable and it's my choice whether I wear them or not," Caleb Rich said.
His sister Sabrina Rich decided to keep her mask on because virtual learning is not suitable for her.
The family plans to send them to school with the chance of having to bring them back home.
School officials revealed Monday what will happen if a student refuses to wear a face mask during the town hall.
- If a student refuses to wear a face mask, staff will remind the student of the requirement.
- If the student continues to refuse to wear a mask, staff will then seek available student services to produce more education for student expectations and the ramifications of going against the requirement.
- If the student still refuses to wear a mask, the school staff will contact a parent or guardian.
- If the student again refuses to wear a mask, the student will be excluded from in-person learning.
Students who are excluded from in-person learning because they are refusing to wear a mask will have access to learning through teacher-provided work via the Learning Management System.
Parent Kristin Jackson also disapproves of mask mandates in schools. One of her children wanted his mask off but was told by a teacher how it was required. Meanwhile, another child said he rather not get in trouble.
"While I want to fight for my kids I also am respectful of authority," Jackson said. "I think it's wrong and unfair I'm tired of it I just want my kids to be normal a lot of kids want to be normal."