WINCHESTER, VA — Today, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed SB 739, which will put the decision of whether kids should be masked in schools back in the hands of parents.

Carrie Lukas, member of Independent Women’s Network and mother of five, shared the following statement:

“Kids and parents around Virginia are smiling today – and we will soon be able to see those children’s smiles, after two years of having them hidden from us. Finally, thanks to bipartisan legislation signed by Governor Youngkin, parents will have the right to make an important decision for their kids – whether or not they should wear a mask while they are at school. 

“I’m the mother of five children, ages 16 to 7, who are in Virginia public schools so this is very personal for me. I know how physically aggravating and emotionally and mentally challenging it’s been for kids to have to wear masks for up to 40 hours a week at school and to never see the faces of their teachers and peers. 

“Independent Women’s Network has heard from hundreds of parents from around the state who want to opt out of mask mandates and want their kids to have a normal childhood. While parents feel that there is a light at the end of this very dark tunnel, we remain concerned. I’m not confident that my children’s school board is going to treat unmasked children fairly. I remain confused about why our school board clung to forced masking even as an avalanche of studies revealed that their cloth masks do not result in better outcomes in terms of COVID’s spread and likely harm children in terms of social and emotional development.”  

Ginny Gentles, Independent Women’s Network contributor and mother of two, added:

“Parents deserve the freedom to choose whether or not their children wear masks. They have seen the impact of two years of forced masking on their children’s verbal development, social skills, and emotional well-being. A therapist recently explained to me that studies are showing that children with ADHD and autism spectrum disorder are becoming more isolated, depressed, and anxious because of mask requirements. Children’s inability to see people’s faces impedes their ability to read social cues, leaving them more confused and impeding their social skills acquisition. Parents of neuroatypical children are celebrating today along with so many others.

“In addition, masks delay verbal development and reading acquisition because children can’t see teachers’ and therapists’ mouths form phonemic sounds and words. Masks also limit already anxious children’s ability to take deep breaths when they need to reset and calm down. Teachers’ voices are muffled by masks, making it difficult for children with attention and auditory processing challenges to understand lessons and directions. We know that lengthy school closures harmed Virginia’s public school students academically and emotionally. Thankfully, this bipartisan legislation prevents further harm, by enabling struggling students to breathe and learn.

“It’s hard to trust the school board’s judgment and motives moving forward.That is why we fervently hope that Virginia leaders embrace policy changes to give parents greater leverage. Parents deserve the ability to choose a school or education provider for their children by having money follow children instead of flowing through these massive and politicized education bureaucracies. Parents need the ability to walk away from schools that aren’t prioritizing their children.”