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Tuesday, March 21, 2023
ArlingtonOpinionEditorial: Let localities decide on student masking

Editorial: Let localities decide on student masking

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Despite the ginned-up, lacking-in-scientific-basis, media-fueled hysteria whipping around over the omicron variant over the past week, more and more among us are recognizing that we’re just going to have to live with COVID’s impacts – something the Sun Gazette suggested last year, but hey, at least people are coming around now.

One of the most important things incoming Gov. Glenn Youngkin can do, preferably the day he takes office, is to take the state’s booted foot off the jugulars of local school boards across the commonwealth, allowing them to decide on their own whether student masking is doing more harm than good.

Just as the evidence has accumulated over the past year that keeping students stuck at home, as Northern Virginia localities did, was far more harmful than what might have transpired on the public-health front – almost everyone now agrees with this, although we’re not expecting any apologies from local school leaders – there is mounting consensus across the globe that the impacts of student masking may be far more perilous, in the long term, than the problem they purportedly are in place to address.

Now, we don’t for a second expect school board leaders across Northern Virginia to embrace the opportunity to remove masks from students’ faces; they have too much at stake, too much “face” to lose, and likely will be among last-ditchers holding onto that power grab that is masking long after most other school systems have moved on.


But the governor and his incoming personnel can send a strong message by merely allowing, as the current governor has not, that local school districts should be responsible for thoughtful decision-making on this matter.

Most of today’s elementary and secondary students likely have 70 or more years of living ahead of them. What is imprinted on their brains now will have consequences almost into the 22nd century. Let that sink in a moment.

Rather than cling to policies that science is clearly showing are of questionable efficacy, as excessive school-system lockdowns were, it would be nice to see a variety of approaches on the mask issue, so those all across the commonwealth could learn from the experiences of others.

For all the sanctimonious blather we hear from local leaders about following “best practices” on matters various and sundry, why is the vision of these same leaders so myopic on the most pressing issue of our day – the impacts of decisions about COVID on the lives of up-and-coming generations? Look around the world; there are plenty of different approaches being taken.

Were local school leaders willing to be more nimble, more creative, more open to ideas that challenge their group-think, we’d even forgive them, at least to some degree, for never, ever, ever apologizing when their decisions are proved wrong.

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