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Loudoun County Schools Fire Teachers and Threaten Arrests for Going Maskless

The Loudoun County school district is once again making national headlines—this time for threatening to arrest students and fire teachers who choose not to wear a mask. Despite Gov. Glenn Younkin’s new executive order, which allows parents to decide if their child should wear a mask in school, the district is attempting to force masks across the board for students and teachers.

The district recently sent out an email to principals suggesting that Student Resource Officers could arrest people for “peaceful mask non-compliance,” and that they be treated as trespassers. After the email leaked, concerned citizens and journalists had reasonable questions about who this applied to. Students? Parents? Teachers? All of the above?

Amidst this confusion and outrage, the superintendent clarified:  “LCPS does not have the authority to arrest or charge any suspended students or their parents for trespassing.”

While it is good news that Loudoun County Public Schools realizes it can’t arrest its own students for not wearing a mask, it is unclear if the district would have come to this conclusion without the email being leaked. If one of the principals on that email had read the rule in the way that many feared it may be read, and arrested a student, teacher, or parent simply for going maskless, the results would have been disastrous. Imagine a student being dragged out of school in cuffs, or a teacher being held in county jail, all for not wearing a mask to school.

The superintendent further alleged that “[m]edia accounts stating that LCPS is arresting students are not accurate and create fear and potential harm for our students.” Yet, the media did not send this unclear email—the district did. The district instructed its principals and Student Resource Officers that they could arrest somebody, but they’re unclear on who, if anybody, that should be.

Meanwhile, a Loudoun County teacher is facing termination for not wearing a mask to school. The Virginia Education Association recently opposed a bill that would ban mask mandates in schools but has not spoken out about whether teachers should be fired for not wearing them.

It is not surprising there is widespread frustration among teachers. Many are tired of masking themselves and their students (try keeping a mask on a five-year-old for 8 minutes, let alone 8 hours), they fear overreaching vaccine mandates, and they are fed up with unions who won’t stand up for teachers on either issue.

However, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, attributes teachers’ problems not to unions who don’t stand up for them in the face of threats from the school district, but to the Republican Party—”Why would someone walk into a profession where every single day one political party is at war with them about whether they’re teaching honest history, about whether or not you should keep them safe, about whether or not they care about children?”

Weingarten’s theory is that progressive teachers want to leave teaching because progressive districts like Loudoun County tout progressive principles which the progressive unions support, and somehow a few complaints and concerns from parents constitute Republican Party attacks forcible enough to make them leave the profession. Perhaps union leaders would learn a great deal—and would provide real assistance—if they actually talked to the teachers they claim to represent. Otherwise, this is just another way in which unions are failing public school teachers.

Patrick Moran

Patrick J. Moran is a Staff Attorney at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment, Patrick served as an attorney for the USDA. Before that, he was a legal associate at the Cato Institute, where he focused on First Amendment issues, including religious liberty and free speech. Patrick received his law degree from the University of Florida, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from University at Albany, SUNY. As a native New Yorker, he works to ensure that public-sector employees in his home state know their constitutional rights and receive fair treatment under the law. Patrick lives in Maryland with his wife.