Parents Protest Vaccine Mandate on Student Athletes in Loudoun County

By Terri Wu
Terri Wu
Terri Wu
Terri Wu is a Washington-based freelance reporter for The Epoch Times covering education and China-related issues. Send tips to
September 15, 2021 Updated: September 15, 2021

LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va.—At another contentious school board meeting on Sept. 14, Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) parents protested the county’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all student-athletes participating in the Virginia High School League winter and spring sports.

The mandate was announced on Aug. 31 by LCPS Superintendent Dr. Scott A. Ziegler. The requirement would take effect on Nov. 8, after which unvaccinated student-athletes would be required to take weekly COVID-19 tests.

The vaccination requirement is a new addition to LCPS parents’ frustration. Parents have still yet to get the town hall they asked of the school board. For months, they have criticized the school board during public comment at the bi-weekly board meetings.

Seventy members of the public signed up to speak in person at the Sept. 14 school board meeting. The participation was not at the same level as June (over 250) and August (about 120), but still a significant turnout. Concerns expressed during public comment centered around COVID-19 vaccine side effects and individual vaccination choice.

Clint Thomas, an LCPS parent, expressed his “strong opposition” to the vaccine mandate during public comment, “Can you imagine your own child growing up in a world where individual freedom over their body was replaced with ‘the government made me do it?’” Thomas said that the schools taught students “complete autonomy over their bodies,” and it “should apply to every aspect” and not just pro-transgender policy. His daughter is in the Loudoun County Woodgrove High School soccer program.

Heather Applegate, a mother with a senior athlete in LCPS, said that the Pfizer vaccine under the FDA’s emergency use authorization for children between 12 and 15 is “still an experimental vaccine.”

Marie Dean, an LCPS employee and a mother of an athlete, had concerns over the vaccine’s side effects, “Statistics from the CDC show young men like my son are more at risk from serious side effects like myocarditis than the virus itself.”

Medical professionals are divided on the risk-benefit evaluation of COVID-19 vaccines on children.

Lawrence Gostin, professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University, wrote in an email to The Epoch Times: “The fact that the vaccines are not fully licensed for this age group gives me pause. And I would ideally like to wait for full FDA approval. But the disruption of educational activities is so great that vaccinating the eligible student population will enable a much safer and more certain return to normal in school education.” Gostin is also the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law.

Jennie Lavine, a biologist at Emory University, published an editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on May 13, 2021, stating that it’s “hard to justify right now for most children in most countries.” Another BMJ opinion article in July argued, “hypothetical benefits to adults do not outweigh risks to children.”

Epoch Times Photo
A Loudoun County physician James Norconk Jr. shows a sign stating the heart inflammation side effect of the COVID-19 vaccines on age group 12 to 17 at the school board meeting on Sept. 14, 2021. (Terri Wu/The Epoch Times)

Marsha Lessard, a co-founder of Virginia Freedom Keepers (VFK), said that her organization started as mothers in Virginia self-organized to fight against H.B. 1090, a bill that gave power to the Virginia Department of Health and Department of Education to mandate vaccines for schools without going through the previously required legislative review in Virginia’s House and Senate. The bill was enacted with a delayed effective date of July 1, 2021. VFK opposes one-size-fits-all medical mandates and has about 20,000 members, according to Lessard.

Michael Rivera, a Loudoun County employee and resident, said he has a problem with many federal agencies with no law-making authority passing policies that are enforced like laws. “The county school board is no longer representing the people; it represents a political party.”

The school board adopted a revised professional conduct policy (pdf), requiring school employees to adhere to LCPS’s “commitment to equitable treatment” during work. The new policy also encourages employees and students to report any violations to supervisors.

Epoch Times Photo
Marsha Lessard (L) and Erin Philogene (C), co-founders of Virginia Freedom Keepers, stand in front of their organization’s tent outside the Loudoun County Public Schools administration building in Ashburn, Va., on Sept. 14, 2021. (Terri Wu/The Epoch Times)