Lifting Mask Mandate Will Cause Conflict. Here’s Why.

Arlie Munday, Staff Writer

Ever since Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin announced his controversial executive order to make masks optional in public schools, many school systems have decided to sit and wait for the executive order to be judged in the Virginia Supreme Court. One of these counties is our very own Stafford. On January 20th, the School Board decided to defy the governor, which makes the mandate a very contentious subject in Stafford County Public Schools, but removing it may have some major unintended consequences.

Also during the meeting on the 25th, a large number of parents went to protest the decision about the executive order. The parents made the school board hold a surprise vote to amend their previous decision, but the vote did not pass. A decision that was forced to be upon only 5 days later is frankly unacceptable.

During the January 25th School Board meeting, Superintendent Thomas Taylor announced that because of masks, 20 students refused to attend, 20 were not allowed in the school because they wouldn’t wear a mask, and 57 exemption request forms were submitted to the board. This is only a small fraction of the conflict that would occur if the mandate was fully removed.

Students would be clearly and visually distinguished from one another, making it possibly very easy to identify their political beliefs. Students who wear a mask would be labeled as liberal, and students who don’t would be labeled as conservative. This divide could cause hostility between these two groups, and the segregation that’d have to be forced through seating charts necessary to maintain six-feet separations between unmasked students would only further this divide. The result could end up pulling students to opposite sides of the political spectrum with no in-between.

Percentage of in favor of mask requirement

When you look at social media or at the school board meetings, parental hostility in Stafford is very prominent. If the mandate is removed, the views of the parents will be reflected in their children, and the children will adopt the parent’s level of hostility.

A survey was sent out to poll the kids of Colonial Forge High School, and the result was that 72% of kids want to keep masks a requirement, but 28% do not. This shows that children who would not wear masks are the minority, which could end up leading to bullying. There are so many things that create conflict between children, like clothes, interests, sports, friends, appearance, and so much more. The last thing we need is for the parent’s hostility to transfer over to their children with masks to set us apart even further from each other and create even more conflict.