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FALLS CHURCH, Virginia (LifeSiteNews) — As Virginia school districts continue to resist new Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s ban on forced masking in public schools, one superintendent reportedly threatened to send home children who show up without masks, prior to the district voting to phase out the requirement.

Among the executive actions Youngkin took on the day of his inauguration was one clarifying that parents have the sole right to decide whether their children wear masks in public schools. Several school districts, including Alexandria and Arlington, announced in response that they would disregard the order and continue to mandate masks; Youngkin responded by promising to “use every resource in the governor’s authority to explore what we can do and will do in order to make sure that parents’ rights are protected.”

Patch reports that Falls Church City Public Schools (FCCPS) decided to allow children to opt out of mask wearing if their parents fill out an opt-out form, but not until February 14. Masks will still be required on buses, in accordance with a federal rule on public transit. 

Ilya Shapiro, vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute and a Falls Church resident, reports in his January 21 column that at a school board meeting, Superintendent Peter Noonan “indicated that he and his regional counterparts were contemplating legal action to preserve local control and mask mandates. He also said that kids showing up maskless on Monday will be sent home.”

Patch reports that Noonan appeared to soften his position in a January 21 letter signaling his compliance with the district’s decision, but implored parents not to “consider unmasking” until after COVID-19 transmission rates have improved in the area. “I ask you to remember that we are part of a bigger community of people and must look out for each other,” Noonan said.

Available evidence suggests that masks have played little, if any, role in reducing COVID-19’s spread across the United States, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) September 2020 acknowledgement that masks cannot be counted on to keep out COVID when spending 15 minutes or longer within six feet of someone, or a May 2020 study published by CDC’s peer-reviewed journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that “did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility.”

Last May, another study found that though mandates effectively increased the use of masks, that use did not yield the expected benefits: “mask mandates and use (were) not associated with lower SARS-CoV-2 spread among U.S. states” from March 2020 to March 2021. In fact, the researchers found the results to be a net negative, with masks increasing “dehydration … headaches and sweating and decreas[ing] cognitive precision,” and interfering with communication, as well as impairing social learning among children.

Data also shows that children are at little-to-no risk from the virus. Last summer, a team of researchers with Johns Hopkins School of Medicine “analyze[d] approximately 48,000 children under 18 diagnosed with Covid in health-insurance data from April to August 2020,” and found a “mortality rate of zero among children without a pre-existing medical condition such as leukemia.” The lead researcher, Dr. Marty Makary, accused the CDC of basing its advocacy of school COVID vaccination on “flimsy data.”

By contrast, evidence suggests children have suffered a variety of serious harms from COVID reaction policies. Shapiro notes that Youngkin’s move against mask mandates “comes as welcome relief to parents who are hardly unreasonable for being worried about cognitive development, language learning, mental health and other issues that have arisen from the coronavirus pandemic. My own kindergartner son has been diagnosed with a mild articulation disorder, for which he was evaluated without lowering his mask.”