‘Cowards!’ Hanover School Board votes against requiring masks after heated crowd of parents lashes out at meeting

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 6:57 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2021 at 7:14 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Hanover County Public Schools made a controversial decision over whether to require masks in schools, Tuesday night, as school districts across Central Virginia continue to grapple with the same question.

Dozens of Hanover parents, waving signs and with their children in tow, made their demands heard. The crowd insisted they have the choice of whether to mask their child, vaccinated or not.

At times, parents spoke out of turn, yelling at the board. A deputy warned the crowd that if they continued to speak out of turn, they’d be removed from the meeting. The school board ultimately had to take a recess because of the heated outbursts.

Regardless, board members voted against Governor Northam’s warning and also against Hanover schools Superintendent Michael Gill’s recommendations. Masks will not be required.

“You’re turning ‘unvaccinated’ into ‘others.’ That’s what you are doing. Segregation!” yelled one parent.

“Cowards! You’re just going along with what everyone else does!” shouted another.

Parents yelled out-of-turn at the Hanover County School Board meeting Tuesday night, insisting...
Parents yelled out-of-turn at the Hanover County School Board meeting Tuesday night, insisting that the decision to mask their child be left up to families.(NBC12)

Governor Northam said last week that school districts must follow CDC guidelines for universal masking, per a state law passed earlier this year. Northam warned that if school districts didn’t comply, they should prepare their legal teams.

Hanover schools, and also Culpeper Schools, now face a potential legal battle.

“We never had to leave a meeting for 25 years. And, excuse me, this is a general discussion. You don’t show respect. That means you don’t respect us. And then you turn around and ask us to do something for you,” said board member John Axselle, who ultimately made the motion to not require masks.

“You work for us. Not the other way around,” shouted someone in the crowd.

Hanover County is classified as having high COVID-19 transmission by the CDC.

According to the HCPS website, 547 students and 150 employees tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the last school year in September of 2020.

Hanover schools will reopen on September 7th.

The exception to the Hanover School Board’s decision is school buses, in which masks must be worn, per federal law.

Multiple other school districts, including Richmond, Hopewell, Chesterfield and Petersburg have voted to require universal masking.

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