Several Virginia public school teachers threatened to resist Republican governor Glenn Youngkin's executive order that allows parents to choose if their child wears a mask at school.
Following his inauguration on Saturday, Youngkin signed a series of education executive orders—including one that gives parents the right to decide whether to mask their kids during the school day. In private social media posts, Virginia teachers announced plans to defy the new order, saying maskless kids would not be welcome in their classroom no matter what their parents or the governor said.
"Kids will not be allowed in mine [sic] class without a mask. No mask, no entry," Prince William County English teacher Heather Lynn Reilly Osial said on Facebook. "If my boss has a problem with that, then she has a choice. Either she wants me there or not."
The posts come as school officials in several counties, including Arlington, Albemarle, Fairfax, and Prince William, as well as the cities of Alexandria and Manassas, announced they will require masks on buses and school property. The Loudoun County Public School Board voted Tuesday to continue requiring masks. Youngkin says he plans to use the full extent of his gubernatorial power to give parents the choice over whether or not their kids wear a mask.
In a comment to the Washington Free Beacon, Osial said her comment was "taken out of context" and claimed the photo was "photoshopped." She did not respond to a request for more information, including the original image. The pictures were originally posted by Instagram account @teachers_for_truth by Lilit Vanetsyan, the page's manager and a Virginia teacher herself.
Fairfax County high school teacher Julie Lawther posted a photo of her cellophane-wrapped desk on Twitter.
"FWIW—If they aren't willing to mask, I'm not coming out from my soon to be upgraded isolation bubble," she tweeted. "No mask? You're on your own… Good luck!"
Lawther added that she was "getting a cattle prod" to ward off unmasked children.
"I am not going any closer than six feet from an unmasked student," Loudoun County biology teacher Carol Hensley said. "If they want to talk to me, they'll need to put a mask on. No job is worth my severely at-risk family's health."
English teacher at Arlington Public Schools Erika Enright said she will separate unmasked children.
"If a child comes into my room without a mask on, they will be asked to sit out in the hallway and do their work," she said. "I dare anyone [to] say anything to me."
Enright told the Free Beacon that she hasn't had to "kick anyone out of my classes because my kids understand the importance of face masks, their parents understand, school administrators understand, and the leaders in Arlington Public Schools understand this point too by handing out KN95s to teachers and students."
"If Youngkin means what he says about this being left to parents to decide, then as a parent of children in APS, I want masks to remain mandatory for everyone in the classrooms," Enright said.
Loudoun County math teacher Robert Kenis questioned the governor's order, wondering if holding class outdoors in freezing temperatures would be a viable way to combat maskless individuals.
"I'm planning to email the superintendent later today, asking him to address teacher concerns in the Wednesday announcement," Kenis said. "For example, can we group unmasked students together? Can we hold class outdoors indefinitely, even in this weather? What if a masked student is immunocompromised and has instructions (from their parent) to avoid unmasked students?"
Lawther, Hensley, and Kenis did not return requests for comment.