Exactly how hard Arlington school leaders plan to push back against a new state law mandating mask freedom in public schools remains to be seen, but it doesn’t appear the school system plans to acquiesce happily.
The new state law “does not prohibit us from requiring masks,” Superintendent Francisco Durán said on Feb. 17. “It only allows for parents to have the choice to opt out.”
That pronouncement appears to be centered on the letter of the law rather than perhaps the broader intent of the General Assembly’s action, which sets a March 1 deadline for school systems to abandon mandatory-mask policies.
While Durán didn’t come out and say it, he intimated at the most recent School Board meeting he’d be happiest if no students went maskless.
“We must wait and follow the science,” he said. “We have come far. We must continue to work together.”
But looking over the shoulders of Northern Virginia school districts, which have had some of the most aggressive masking policies in the commonwealth, will be both the courts and Attorney General Jason Miyares. The latter has made it clear his office will not look charitably at any resistance to the legislature’s will.
And not all parents are on board with Durán’s stance, as
evidenced by a number of speakers during the School Board meeting:
• “Don’t you sit there and tell the public you’re following the science,” one said. “You all are lying and doing a disservice to the APS community.”
• “I didn’t hear anyone [on the School Board dais] address the growing mental-health crisis that every child in Arlington Public Schools is having” due to the impacts of masking, another said.
• “What next, will you force those kids [not wearing masks] to relocate to ‘separate but equal’ schools, or maybe a ‘quarantine camp?’” asked another, blasting masking as draconian and unconstitutional.
Durán said a more fleshed-out policy would be announced before the March 1 deadline looms. Even so, a number of Northern Virginia school districts already have pulled back their requirements to one degree or another.