Virginia Schools Threaten Maskless Students With Suspension, Isolation

Executive order lets parents decide whether students wear masks to school

Students at a Loudoun County, Va., elementary school / Getty Images
January 25, 2022

Two Virginia school districts are making life difficult for students who come to class without masks.

Effective Monday, an executive order from Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R.) gave parents the right to decide whether their children wore masks to school. But unmasked students in Loudoun County this week were separated from their classmates and sequestered in gymnasiums and auditoriums. In Frederick County, students were threatened with suspensions or sent home for refusing to wear a mask.

A group of maskless students on Tuesday at Sherando High School in Frederick County were escorted to the auditorium immediately upon arrival. There, school officials informed them that they could be sent home if they didn't mask up. Parents said they had no indication that suspension was a possibility.

"Neither the principal nor the vice principal had ever used the phrase 'suspension' with me," said Sherando mother Annie Jones, who believes school officials threatened students with suspension as "a scare tactic to get them to comply."

Threats of suspension were not isolated to Sherando High. Administrators at Millbrook High School threatened dozens of students with suspension Tuesday morning, one parent tells the Washington Free Beacon.

Other schools resorted to separation. Nicholas Sanchez, a senior at Potomac Falls High School in Loudoun County, spent the day in the auditorium under the supervision of a school official, who was charged with escorting him to and from the restroom.

"It’s clear they're trying to break me," Sanchez told the Free Beacon.

Loudoun County and Frederick County schools are just two Virginia districts flouting Youngkin's executive order. Seven school districts filed suit against the order this week, claiming it "is in conflict with the Constitution and state law." In response to these challenges, Youngkin directed students and parents to follow orders from principals while the lawsuits challenging his order work their way through the Virginia Supreme Court.

But according to a Youngkin spokesman, the governor is not backing down.

"We are disappointed that some are still not listening to parents who want to protect children's health and wellbeing," a Youngkin spokesman told the Free Beacon. "Data show that constant mask wearing can have harmful side effects on some of our children, and who better to recognize those side effects than their parents."

Sanchez waited more than four hours before receiving any instruction, save for a notice that he had an assignment due Friday. He told the Free Beacon many of his friends who oppose the school's mask mandate nonetheless complied to avoid repercussions.

"I have lots of conservative friends who don't agree with the mask but put it on anyway to avoid confrontation or pushback," Sanchez said. "But I'm not taking it anymore. Just when things go in my favor, the left time and time again bends the rules."

Scott Mineo, a Loudoun County parent, said teachers at the Academies of Loudoun told his maskless daughter on Monday that she could sit alone for the day, or go home. Mineo took his daughter home, where she waited hours before receiving instructional materials. Mineo and his wife spent the afternoon delivering pizzas to roughly 60 Loudoun County students who had been isolated for not wearing masks.

At Admiral Richard E. Byrd Middle School, officials separated two unmasked brothers into a socially distanced classroom when the boys declined to wear masks. The school's principal, Dr. Jessica Nail, told Samantha Craun that isolating her sons was not a form of punishment. But Craun disagrees.

"It feels that segregating them and not giving them the full education they deserve is a punishment," she told the Free Beacon.