Our three families together have 10 kids in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). This week, we filed a lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board and our superintendent for forcing our kids to wear masks and denying our rights as parents, even after Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed an executive order specifically affirming that we should be allowed to choose whether our kids wear masks during school.

We are grateful that bipartisan legislation to eliminate mask mandates in schools will soon become law in Virginia. Yet our lawsuit remains necessary to ensure that Fairfax County students get true relief from the sometimes Draconian masking rules and punishments related to mandatory mask-wearing. 

Fairfax County’s reaction to Gov. Youngkin’s executive order demonstrates that it is also necessary to ensure that FCPS does not continue, even after passage of the bill currently working its way through the legislative process, to discriminate against children in its school district through arbitrary and punitive “mitigation measures” directed at those whose parents choose for their children not to wear masks while at school. Indeed, FCPS should have to account for how their actions have harmed children and for putting the interests of the children in their care last.

For months, scientific evidence has overwhelmingly shown that the masks FCPS has required do not protect against COVID’s transmission. At the same time, there has been growing awareness that masking children for 40 hours a week results in significant harm. Children are by far the group least vulnerable to COVID. While adults have lifted masking requirements for themselves in bars and restaurants, they continue to force children to mask, selfishly prioritizing their’ interests over the well-being of kids.

This hypocrisy took center stage this weekend, where we all witnessed the spectacle of politicians and public figures – who have been in favor of strict mask policies – partying unmasked at the Super Bowl. Though these politicians and celebrities are doubtlessly hypocrites, they are right not to wear the ineffective masks and to enjoy their lives. We merely wish that our children would have the right to do the same. We know personally the high price children have had to pay. We’ve seen our children suffer from long-term masking with headaches and feelings of isolation. It’s time for these harmful policies to end.

FCPS has claimed that their hands have been tied by CDC guidelines. Yet those guidelines merely say that the CDC recommends that students mask; the CDC also recommends that schools maintain 3 feet of physical distance between students, a recommendation that they (wisely) have chosen not to embrace. This shows they could have also chosen to loosen the masking requirement to allow parents to decide whether their children are more at risk from COVID or from the harm caused by masking.

There has been growing awareness that masking children for 40 hours a week results in significant harm.

FCPS has crowed about the high rate of “compliance” with mask mandates among students and families. FCPS should revisit their history lessons and note that people complying to avoid severe penalties and social ostracism do not reflect support but, rather, fear. 

Indeed, we have heard from scores of FCPS families and hundreds across the state of Virginia who say they, too, wish to opt out of masking and fear how masking is harming their children but do not want to be on the wrong side of school officials. Our own children hesitate to voice their opinions about masks during school since they are used to having mask protocols – never letting your nose show, stifling yawns and laughter – swiftly and strictly enforced by teachers and school officials.

This lawsuit will help change that. We seek to have FCPS expunge the punishments imposed on students who attempted to follow their own and their parents’ preference that they unmask. We seek to have them affirm that parents have the right to make decisions about their children’s health and education. And we hope for Fairfax County Schools’ punitive measures, which they doubtlessly believe will be imposed on their political enemies, to come to an end once and for all.

Last year, FCPS put off resuming in-person school as long as politically possible, despite children suffering tremendous learning loss as a result. Today, FCPS works hard to keep parents in the dark about what’s being taught in school. This has to end. Fairfax County Public Schools needs to respect parents’ rights and put children’s interests first, and that’s why we have taken this action.