‘Our kids aren’t pawns’: Amelia parents blast school board after universal mask-wearing vote

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 7:04 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 10, 2021 at 7:17 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Emotions ran high at an Amelia County School Board meeting Monday night, two days before students are set to head back to class.

Board members voted to heed Governor Northam’s warning and require a universal mask policy, meaning students and staff members would be required to wear face coverings- vaccinated or not. That drew a largely negative response from the crowd. The vast majority of those in attendance did not support a mask mandate in schools, hoping the choice would be left up to individuals.

Parents and some students were passionate in their reaction, even calling out to board members, at times. During the public comment period, which ran well over an hour, parents said they did not want their children being used as political pawns, and that other people’s beliefs were being forced upon their families.

This all comes after Governor Northam switched course last week, saying a recently passed state law now requires state school districts to follow CDC guidelines- or face legal consequences.

Before the CDC recently changed its guidance on masks in schools, Governor Northam said school districts could decide whether to hand down a universal mandate. But CDC guidance was updated in light of the spreading delta variant. The agency now recommends universal mask-wearing in schools, regardless of vaccination status. Governor Northam warned that schools must follow suit, or prepare their legal teams.

A packed meeting full of parents in Amelia wasn’t buying.

“It doesn’t make sense and I’m tired of my children being punished and used as pawns for a virus that doesn’t even effect kids. I will close in asking, which I’m sure you won’t answer- once the CDC recommends that all kids get vaccinated, are you going to force that on them too?” asked one mother.

“These mandates are no longer about safety, but about control. As soon as the governor realized that (school) boards were not going along with his ridiculous policy, he scrambled for control using threats and scare tactics,” said another parent.

Last year, about 30 percent of Amelia school staff members and 22 percent of students had to quarantine at some point.

Amelia School Board members said even if they personally didn’t like the law or being forced to follow it, they did not want to put Amelia schools at substantial legal and financial risk.

Amelia is a high COVID-19 transmission area on the CDC’s map, like much of Central Virginia. The agency is now recommending that people wear masks in public in high transmission areas, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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