Florida extends mandate ban to include ‘institutionalized quarantining’ of K-12 students

The DeSantis administration has opened a new front in its campaign against public health mandates, expanding bans against universal mask and vaccine policies into a new prohibitory realm – “institutionalized quarantining.”

On his second day as Florida Department of Health (FDOH) Secretary and Surgeon General, Dr. Joe Lapado joined Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to announce new FDOH protocols applicable to school districts.

The new rules reiterate the previous policy that parents have sole discretion whether their children wear masks in school but also accords sole discretion to parents in choosing to quarantine their children after an exposure to COVID-19.

“Basically there is no high quality data about benefits” of quarantining students, Lapado said Wednesday. “We’re about 18 months into this pandemic and there is not a single high-quality study that shows that any child has ever benefited from that policy.”

While benefits of quarantining students are difficult to assess, “We actually do have good data about the costs,” he said. “There have been several studies that show that kids taken out of school, it’s extremely harmful. It’s too bad we needed a study to know that. But it’s great the studies agree with what I think most parents would have known without the study.”

“Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for their educational advancement,” DeSantis said. “It’s also disruptive for families. We are going to be following a symptoms-based approach.”

The revised protocols eliminate a previous standard that required students quarantine for at least four days off campus if exposed to someone who tested positive.

Students who have been exposed, but are asymptomatic, can now go to school “without restrictions or disparate treatment” under the new guidelines.

The protocols retain previous guidelines for students who test positive. They still either quarantine for 10 days, receive a negative test and be asymptomatic before returning to campus.

The new protocols discard Rule 64DER21-12 , which authorized FDOH to issue rules governing “the control of preventable communicable diseases” in schools.

Under that rule, the state’s Department of Education was enforcing DeSantis’ executive order and Board of Education orders banning school boards from adopting universal mask mandates.

The Alachua, Broward, Leon and Miami-Dade and Orange county school districts sought an administrative hearing to challenge Rule 64DER21-12. But, because it was repealed, an administrative law judge Wednesday dismissed their case.

“Essentially, the state is responding to the legal challenges of its rules by repealing them and creating new ones, with limited public notice,” Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon said in a statement, calling the new protocols “disingenuous.”

The replacement rule retains the same policy — schools can require masks if parents can opt children out — but with revised language that stipulates compliance is “at the parent or legal guardian’s sole discretion.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), people who get infected can spread the virus starting from two days before they have any symptoms.

The CDC recommends students quarantine 14 days if unvaccinated. They can shorten the quarantine to seven days by testing negative, the CDC recommends.

That approach is too unwieldly, DeSantis said, touting the new “symptoms-based approach.”

“If someone is symptomatic, of course they stay at home,” he said. “If there is a close contact but someone has not developed any symptoms, you monitor them. You notify a parent. The parent always has the right to make their kids stay home, if they think that is in the best interest of the student and the family, 100% we would not want to intrude upon that.”





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Hackers Post Personal Info of Thousands of K-12 Students to ‘Dark Web’

Sen. Blackburn calls on Education Dept to address wave of student data breaches

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) / Getty Images

Santi Ruiz and Alex Nester • September 20, 2021 3:28 pm

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) is calling on the Department of Education to bolster student privacy protections after hackers released thousands of children’s personal information online.

In a letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, Blackburn implored Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to address a recent wave of cyberattacks that put children as young as five at risk of identity theft. Hackers have breached more than 1,200 schools in 2021, publishing the data they obtained on “dark web” sites that cannot be accessed from a search in a browser and are often used by criminals. Blackburn called the hacks “extremely distressing.”

The recent wave of hacks is one of several education issues facing the Biden administration. Following recommendations from the nation’s largest teachers’ unions, the administration has only hesitantly supported reopened schools. Under Cardona, the Education Department has prioritized critical race theory, student loan forgiveness, and Title IX reforms.

The Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment.

According to NBC News, multiple groups of hackers have published students’ Social Security numbers, birthdays, and report cards. In many cases, the targeted schools were not aware of the breaches.

Hackers used personal information from a school breach in Toledo, Ohio, to take out credit cards with children’s identities. Experts warn such hacks could ruin kids’ credit scores years before they are old enough to realize. Hackers also accessed personal information, like whether students were homeless, qualified for at-school lunch, or were dyslexic.

Some experts believe remote learning has put children’s data at risk. According to cybersecurity expert Maurice Turner, “remote learning has enabled schools to collect even more student information without the necessary safeguards to protect the sensitive data.” Turner compared current standards to the old college practice of using Social Security numbers as student IDs. He suggested the Department of Education tie security standards to federal funding.

Schools are also prime targets for hostile foreign actors. China has repeatedly stolen data from American universities over the past several years, often tapping students to steal information for Beijing. In July, the Biden administration scrapped a Trump administration proposal to strengthen government oversight of the student visa system.

Lawmakers have recently called on the Biden administration to beef up federal cybersecurity protections. The Biden administration refused to sanction China for a hack on Microsoft email servers that compromised the data of millions of Americans.





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Taking the Battle for Free Speech to K-12 – Reason.com

It’s understood by most college alumni—and pretty much everyone in the general public, at this point—that open discourse is under assault in higher education, and has been for decades. From demands that speakers with unpopular opinions be disallowed on campus to strident calls for controversial professors to be fired, free speech culture has declined precipitously in academia while the corridor of acceptable opinion has uncomfortably narrowed.

Both faculty and students are clearly on notice that certain opinions are best not expressed, unless you’re willing to risk consequences ranging from mild social disapproval to abject humiliation or even outright ejection. It’s hardly surprising, then, that survey results reveal high rates of self-censorship in the United States, both on campus and off.

While college and graduate school-level speech censorship is widespread and well-documented, we find ourselves facing an even more alarming problem: this same restrictive culture, with its oppressive conformity demands, has already filtered down to younger students. Recent college graduates—now newly-minted teachers—are bringing these acquired academic habits and expectations to American high-, middle-, and even elementary schools.

It’s one thing for college students or faculty to choose to censor their own personally-held viewpoints, but what happens when children absorb the norm of self-silencing before they’ve even had the opportunity to develop thoughtful, informed opinions in the first place? As deleterious as a censorship culture is among adults, who can estimate the damage inflicted, and the potential loss, when children are not even allowed the mental freedom to form their own positions independently?

For those of us who attended American schools in a different era—when cultural norms supported freedom of thought, respected freedom of conscience, and even encouraged a certain amount of spirited, rebellious disputation—it is difficult to imagine the interior gymnastics required to distort nascent thoughts into acceptable, approvable ones, and the constraint such stifling would impose on intellectual growth and personal development. (The Polish writer Czeslaw Milosz offers a detailed, disturbing examination of the contorted thought processes produced under authoritarian pressure in his Nobel Prize winning book The Captive Mind.) Presumably, at minimum, understanding and self-awareness would be stunted. Specious reasoning and internal contradictions would go unchallenged. Students who are not allowed to explore subjects fully, vigorously, and honestly would gain only a shallow, cursory grasp of difficult, nuanced topics. Extrapolating from the individual across an entire society, it is hard to calculate the diminishment this would portend for a free society.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), where I work, fights to protect the First Amendment and other constitutional rights of students and faculty on American college campuses, since the restriction of open dialogue diminishes the educational experience of students and infringes on the academic freedom of faculty. Years of hands-on work in this arena made it abundantly clear that many of the students arriving on campus with anti-speech attitudes developed them well before matriculation. Recognizing that it would be difficult to win this battle without addressing illiberalism at younger ages, FIRE expanded its mission and I joined to launch its High School Outreach program in 2018. My work includes developing curricular alternatives and other discourse-defending resources to reach and inform K-12 educators and constituents.

Because the K-12 arena is dramatically different from higher education — from its inherent purpose and function to the composition of its student body — it must be approached with awareness of the greater limits on educator speech, the deference due to the natural vulnerability of minors compelled to attend, and the rights of their parents. One valuable resource, from FIRE’s President and CEO Greg Lukianoff, outlines 10 Principles for Empowering the American Mind and Opposing Thought Reform in K-12 Education. His first principle — “no compelled speech, thought, or belief” — reminds us of the important precedent set by West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette and reaffirms the basic right of students not to be compelled into saluting or genuflecting for causes or ideas.

In Barnette, Justice Robert H. Jackson, writing for the Court, warned against using public education as a political indoctrination tool:

Free public education, if faithful to the ideal of secular instruction and political neutrality, will not be partisan or enemy of any class, creed, party, or faction. If it is to impose any ideological discipline, however, each party or denomination must seek to control, or failing that, to weaken the influence of the educational system. Observance of the limitations of the Constitution will not weaken government in the field appropriate for its exercise.

This series of blog posts will examine ways in which K-12 indoctrination efforts shortchange students, undermine their education, interfere with school-home trust and communication, and erode community support. More importantly, it will offer solutions and practical paths forward.

While there will always be competing ideas of exactly how, and precisely what, we should teach in our elementary and secondary institutions, we can rely on shared common (small “l”) liberal principles to guide our decision-making processes and to govern the necessary, open discussions on this essential topic in a democratic society.

 



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Bill would expand Florida ban on critical race theory beyond K-12 public schools

The Florida Board of Education (BOE) approved a rule in June that mandates K-12 public schools teach American history based on “universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence” and bans “critical race theory” (CRT) from being taught.

The original rule, based on an executive order issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis, barred teachers from attempting “to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view” but never mentioned CRT.

The rule ultimately adopted by the BOE excludes the “indoctrinate” language but cites CRT in outlawing “fiction or theory masquerading as facts, such as critical race theory” in K-12 schools.

But there’s still too much CRT indoctrinating going on, says Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who is calling on Florida lawmakers to expand and codify DeSantis’ order and the BOE rule banning it when they convene Jan. 11 for their 2022 legislative session.

Fine and Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, on Aug. 30 pre-filed House Bill 57 for the 2022 session, which seeks to ban use of CRT in training, policy or any activity in K-12 public schools, all 12 public Florida universities, all 28 public state colleges, state agencies, municipal governments and private businesses that contract with state and local governments.

“Critical Race Theory is racist at its core, and has no place in the State of Florida,” Fine said in a Wednesday statement. “The notion that people are good or bad based on the color of their skin runs counter to everything our country was founded on. It is insidious, it is evil, and it is propagated to make our children hate their country.”

CRT is not a component of Florida’s K-12 curriculum but the BOE adopted the rule after DeSantis cited “attempts to teach CRT” in Palm Beach and Sarasota counties and at Jacksonville’s Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, where two school cultural meetings separating students based on race were canceled amid backlash.

“Critical Race Theory teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools,” DeSantis tweeted before the BOE adopted its rule in June. “The woke class wants to teach kids to hate each other, rather than teaching them how to read, but we will not let them bring nonsense ideology into Florida’s schools.”

Fine also cited an example of CRT being taught in schools, noting “as we have seen in Brevard County, radical politicians and bureaucrats are indoctrinating this hate into our principals, teachers, and ultimately, students.”

Fine said while most are engaged in “the greatest crisis to public education in history – responding to COVID,” Brevard County School Board “politicians thought it was more important to spend tens of thousands of dollars hiring a CRT trainer who stated, ‘White America has a deep and thick appetite for Black death and violence upon Black people.’ The philosophy these politicians are pushing is repugnant and repulsive, and this legislation will eradicate it root and branch.”

Brevard School District Board officials claim Fine is taking unattributed comments out of context and that they have no plan to teach CRT.

HB 57 would ban a 10-point list of “divisive concepts,” including “race or sex scapegoating,” prohibit teaching one race or sex is inherently superior to another, that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist and that individuals are inherently racist, sexist and oppressive based on their own race or sex.

Florida Department of Education inspectors general would review compliance annually under HB 57, which clarifies it does not ban “racial, cultural, ethnic or intellectual diversity and inclusiveness efforts” that don’t feature “divisive concepts.”





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DeSantis hits bipartisan ‘sweet spot’ with proposed slash in Florida K-12 standardized testing

Gov. Ron DeSantis spearheaded the effort to raise Florida teachers’ pay to one of the nation’s highest starting salaries, but his high-profile battles with school boards over face-mask mandates – among other clashes – have not made him a popular among most career educators.

But on Tuesday, the governor induced a rare, bright glimmer of bipartisan consensus when he introduced the parameters of a 2022 initiative to dramatically scale back standardized testing in Florida schools.

“This will be one of our top priorities in the legislative session,” DeSantis said in Doral, claiming his proposal will reduce standardized assessments in Florida schools by 75% and allow for more individualized testing.

DeSantis said he’ll call on lawmakers to eliminate several standardized statewide exams students now take, and replace them with fall, winter and spring progress reports that, he said, would be more timely and actionable.

“This is going to be more student-friendly, this is going to be more teacher-friendly and it going to be more parent-friendly,” he said.

Under the Florida Statewide Assessment (FSA) program, the state’s 2.9 million K-12 students take annual statewide standardized tests in English language arts (ELA), math and science, among others, as well as End-of-Course (EOC) exams.

ELA and Math FSA tests are issued every spring. Students in grades 3-10 are required to take the ELA FRA exam and students in grades 3-8 take the Math FSA. Florida students in grades 5-8 must take a statewide science assessment every May.

DeSantis said FSA exams taken at the end of the academic year do little for students and teachers because “you can’t go back and fix” whatever deficiencies are identified for three months.

“I think it’s going to be transformative to how students learn,” Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said, noting he agrees with FSA critics who say test results are an “autopsy” rather than an action plan.

Teachers and administrators have long complained the FSA forces a teaching-to-the-test approach rather than teaching to learn and consume valuable class time. “From April to May,” Corcoran said, “we basically shut down schools for testing.”

DeSantis said the three progress reports allow individual student progress to be assessed in “hours, not days,” unlike cumbersome and complicated FSA regimes.

Lawmakers begin committee meetings this month in anticipation of convening their 60-day 2022 session Jan. 11. The Senate Education Committee meets Sept. 21 to discuss FSA standards.

The state still must sustain a standardized testing system under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for individual and collective Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments.

Although detail is lacking, DeSantis’ proposal drew support from Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, Senate Education Committee Chair Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, and ranking Democratic Senate Education Committee member, Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park.

“Fewer, better state assessments with greater reliance on ongoing, real-time progress monitoring data enable timely academic recalibration opportunities that are right for Florida’s kids,” Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho posted on Twitter. “We applaud today’s announcement.”

“For 20 years, we have underscored the harmful effect that mandated tests have had on our students and educators’ ability to teach students in a rich and meaningful way,’’ United Teachers of Dade said in a statement. “We are glad that the Florida Department of Education has finally listened to the recommendations of education experts and concerned parents and has chosen to eliminate the FSA.”

“I think we’ve hit a real sweet spot here,” DeSantis said. “I think that you’re going to see a lot of support for it.”





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Black Unemployment: Bridging K-12 Education Gap Key to Bridging Economic Gap

Job seekers fill out employment forms at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. career fair held by the New York State department of Labor in New York, in 2012. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Bridging the economic gap between black and white workers starts with bridging the achievement gap in K–12 education.

Recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its disappointing monthly jobs report, which showed that the economy had added only 250,000 jobs in August, far fewer than the 750,000 expected. While the overall unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 percent from the previous 5.4 percent, the unemployment rate for black Americans was also a lowlight, rising from 8.2 percent to 8.8 percent while the unemployment rate for whites dropped from 4.8 percent to 4.5 percent.

The latter disparity led AFL-CIO chief economist William Spriggs to argue that the primary cause of rising black unemployment is discrimination. Spriggs noted that the unemployment rate among black workers who had attained associate degrees (6.9 percent) exceeded the 5.8 percent unemployment rate among white high-school dropouts. Moreover, the unemployment rate for those of all races with less than a high-school diploma was 7 percent, while the unemployment rate for blacks with a high-school diploma and no college degree was 10 percent. This led Spriggs to argue that employers are clearly “passing over Black workers.”

I would respectfully disagree with Spriggs. While there is certainly some racial discrimination in the jobs market, the primary factor inhibiting higher economic attainment within the black population is the failure of urban public-school districts to adequately prepare black students for a four-year college or, alternatively, other post-secondary education such as technical or vocational training. Historically, whites of all economic classes have received better educations than blacks, so until we achieve parity in educational opportunities for all students, we shouldn’t expect to see a statistical trend toward equal levels of employment.

Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, nearly 60 years ago, attributing economic disparities between blacks and whites primarily to racism would have been warranted. But in 2021, such a knee-jerk response is intellectually lazy at best and dishonest at worst. At this late date, too many other factors are in play that have little to do with racial bigotry: the ravages of poverty most often associated with out-of-wedlock births, the value placed on education at home, the degree of parental involvement in terms of homework and other learning, and, of course, the quality of the schools students attend.

This last factor plays a particularly important role in creating the economic disparity between black and white Americans. Take, for instance, the current state of K–12 education for black students in California, based on recent statistics from an article by Ricardo Cano at Cal Matters:

  • In 2019, 21 percent of black students were proficient in math, compared to 54 percent of white students and 74 percent of Asian students. Thirty-three percent of black students were proficient in English, compared to 65 percent of white students and 77 percent of Asian students.
  • Also in 2019, just 24 percent of graduating black high-school seniors were prepared for postsecondary education, compared to 54 percent of their white peers and 74 percent of their Asian peers.
  • A recent study by Stanford researchers found that school poverty, not a school’s racial composition, is the primary driver of student-achievement gaps. In short, minority students are concentrated in high-poverty schools, which are on average less effective than lower-poverty schools.

Given these realities, comparing black workers with associate degrees to white high-school dropouts is comparing apples and oranges. A person who has dropped out from an excellent high school could very well have more marketable skills than a person who graduated from a low-performing high school and went on to two years of college before dropping out. While a person who has earned an associate degree will generally possess more marketable skills than a high-school dropout, there is no guarantee, as it depends on what each of them studied and how they performed in their post-secondary pursuits.

The bottom line is that bridging the economic gap between black and white workers starts with bridging the achievement gap in K–12 education, and bridging the achievement gap in K–12 education starts with giving all students school choice and equal access to a quality education. Until we do that, comparing the unemployment rate by race only fans the flames of dissension (which is perhaps the intent) and, worse yet, distracts from tackling the root causes of black Americans’ lagging academic and economic performance. Interestingly, the one thing blacks possess now relative to 60-plus years ago is the full power to vote out of office public-school administrators who don’t serve their kids’ interests.

Blacks are hardly powerless regarding the fate of our children’s education. It’s time we took advantage of the opportunity to direct who educates us and how.

Walter Myers III is a board member of Discovery Institute and an adjunct faculty lecturer at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology.





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Bill would expand Florida ban on critical race theory beyond K-12 public schools

The Florida Board of Education (BOE) approved a rule in June that mandates K-12 public schools teach American history based on “universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence” and bans “critical race theory” (CRT) from being taught.

The original rule, based on an executive order issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis, barred teachers from attempting “to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view” but never mentioned CRT.

The rule ultimately adopted by the BOE excludes the “indoctrinate” language but cites CRT in outlawing “fiction or theory masquerading as facts, such as critical race theory” in K-12 schools.

But there’s still too much CRT indoctrinating going on, says Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who is calling on Florida lawmakers to expand and codify DeSantis’ order and the BOE rule banning it when they convene Jan. 11 for their 2022 legislative session.

Fine and Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, on Aug. 30 pre-filed House Bill 57 for the 2022 session, which seeks to ban use of CRT in training, policy or any activity in K-12 public schools, all 12 public Florida universities, all 28 public state colleges, state agencies, municipal governments and private businesses that contract with state and local governments.

“Critical Race Theory is racist at its core, and has no place in the State of Florida,” Fine said in a Wednesday statement. “The notion that people are good or bad based on the color of their skin runs counter to everything our country was founded on. It is insidious, it is evil, and it is propagated to make our children hate their country.”

CRT is not a component of Florida’s K-12 curriculum but the BOE adopted the rule after DeSantis cited “attempts to teach CRT” in Palm Beach and Sarasota counties and at Jacksonville’s Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, where two school cultural meetings separating students based on race were canceled amid backlash.

“Critical Race Theory teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools,” DeSantis tweeted before the BOE adopted its rule in June. “The woke class wants to teach kids to hate each other, rather than teaching them how to read, but we will not let them bring nonsense ideology into Florida’s schools.”

Fine also cited an example of CRT being taught in schools, noting “as we have seen in Brevard County, radical politicians and bureaucrats are indoctrinating this hate into our principals, teachers, and ultimately, students.”

Fine said while most are engaged in “the greatest crisis to public education in history – responding to COVID,” Brevard County School Board “politicians thought it was more important to spend tens of thousands of dollars hiring a CRT trainer who stated, ‘White America has a deep and thick appetite for Black death and violence upon Black people.’ The philosophy these politicians are pushing is repugnant and repulsive, and this legislation will eradicate it root and branch.”

Brevard School District Board officials claim Fine is taking unattributed comments out of context and that they have no plan to teach CRT.

HB 57 would ban a 10-point list of “divisive concepts,” including “race or sex scapegoating,” prohibit teaching one race or sex is inherently superior to another, that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist and that individuals are inherently racist, sexist and oppressive based on their own race or sex.

Florida Department of Education inspectors general would review compliance annually under HB 57, which clarifies it does not ban “racial, cultural, ethnic or intellectual diversity and inclusiveness efforts” that don’t feature “divisive concepts.”



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Justice clarifies West Virginia’s K-12 mask stance – no mandate yet

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice clarified his stance on mask mandates in K-12 schools at a recent news conference, saying there will be no statewide mandate at this time, but there will be no prohibitions on school districts imposing mandates if they choose to.

Although the governor said last week he was considering a mandate because of the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant, the new announcement increases the likelihood that the upcoming school year will at least start out with no statewide rule. The school year begins in less than two weeks in many districts and Justice said he does not have enough information to justify a mask mandate at this time.

“There are no mandates, there are no plans for mandates and .. we are letting the local people make decisions because one size doesn’t fit all here and we’re going to continue down that pathway until we reach a situation to where the medical community says to me and says ‘governor, you’ve got to move, you’ve got to move in this direction or that direction and then we’ll visit it and look at it in a different light,” Justice said. “And all we can continue to do is hope and pray we don’t reach those levels.”

The governor later criticized governors of other states who have prohibited schools from implementing their own mask mandates. He said the last thing the state needs is “mandating against mandates.” He said not all counties will be in the same health situation and local authorities should determine what’s best for their region.

Justice said he will make an announcement if anything changes.

Official recommendations from the West Virginia Department of Education take a neutral stance on mask mandates. It urged school districts to work with local health officials to determine the best policy in that region. The department urged schools to manage class sizes and promote social distancing, but did not mandate it.

Schools in different regions have taken different approaches. Monongalia County is mandating masks for all students, staff and teachers, regardless of vaccination status. Putnam County announced it would not require masks for any students. Kanawha County is requiring masks from preschool through fifth grade, but not for older students.





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Youngkin, McAuliffe disagree on Virginia’s K-12 mask mandate

The Republican and Democratic nominees to be the next governor of Virginia have taken contrasting views about Virginia’s mask mandate for K-12 students, staff and teachers.

After reversing course from previous state guidelines, State Health Commissioner Norm Oliver signed a Public Health Order, which required universal masking for students, staff and teachers while indoors at K-12 public school facilities. The order applies equally to vaccinated and unvaccinated people, but does not require masking outdoors.

The order received support from Democrats, but opposite from Republicans. The partisan divide on the issue also carried over to the gubernatorial race set for November.

“With [the] student mask mandate announcement, Ralph Northam, Terry McAuliffe and Richmond liberals have made clear that they will stop at nothing to impose their will and take away parents’ ability to decide what’s best for our kids,” Glenn Youngkin, a businessman and the Republican nominee for governor, said in a statement.

“Make no mistake about it, this mask mandate is the first step towards returning to a full shutdown of our economy. We must respect parents’ right to decide what is best for their own children. If parents, teachers, and children want to wear a mask, they absolutely should do that, but there should not be a statewide school mask mandate.”

Youngkin has expressed his opposition with mask mandates, vaccine passports and vaccine mandates. He has encouraged people to get vaccinated, but does not require his campaign to get the vaccine.

In contrast to Youngkin, the Democratic nominee for governor, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, applauded Northam’s decision and said the commonwealth should follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Terry believes we have to do everything we can to keep our children safe while they return to schools in-person this fall, and he believes everyone should follow CDC guidelines in wearing masks and getting vaccinated,” McAuliffe spokesperson Renzo Olivari, said in a statement.

“He knows the only way we’re going to end this pandemic and keep our economy strong is by getting every eligible Virginian vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Olivari said. “While Glenn Youngkin is taking leadership cues from Ron DeSantis’ disastrous handling of the pandemic in Florida and even opposed funding for vaccine distribution, Terry is strongly encouraging every eligible Virginian to get the COVID-19 vaccine and has required his campaign staff do so.”

Along with requiring his campaign to get vaccinated, McAuliffe supports Gov. Ralph Northam’s requirement that state workers either get vaccinated or get weekly COVID-19 tests. He also encouraged healthcare providers to require their workers to get the vaccine.

The election will be Nov. 2. McAuliffe currently has a narrow lead in the polls.





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