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Face Off in Virginia: Students Unmask, Suffer School Board’s Wrath

While more and more states and districts are dropping COVID-19 restrictions, others are doubling down. Loudoun County, Virginia, is one of them. That’s where a battle is raging between state-level directives and the will of the local school board—and children are bearing the brunt of it.

On his first day in office last month, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order making masks optional for students. It was quickly buried in lawsuits, including by several school boards accusing the governor of overstepping his authority.

Then last week, Virginia’s Senate voted with bipartisan support to ban public schools from forcing students to wear masks. The measure should easily pass through the Republican-controlled House, then land on the governor’s desk for signing. Once it passes, it will make most lawsuits moot.

In the meantime, some school boards are following their own rules, still enforcing strict masking requirements. And some students decided they’d had enough, that they’d follow the governor’s order and show their faces. Once they did, they got segregated, suspended, and more.

Two families from Loudoun County share their stories: Muriel and Brian Groce with their daughters, Annabelle (grade 7), and Madeleine (grade  6), both at Blue Ridge Middle School; and Andrew Missler with his son Jarod, a senior at Woodgrove High School.

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