The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Youngkin could hardly be off to a worse start

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) on Jan. 20 in Roanoke. (Scott P. Yates/The Roanoke Times via AP)
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Regarding the Jan. 25 Metro article “Calm on mask order is urged”:

Does Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) not see the incongruity in his first two executive orders? The first prohibited teaching “inherently divisive” concepts in schools, and the second prohibited school mask mandates, an order that predictably has opened a fissure within the state. After campaigning for local control of school masking policy and subsequently promoting unity in his inaugural address, the governor recklessly issued the mask mandate prohibition, possibly in violation of state law. This, of course, precipitated a firestorm of protest, lawsuits and defiance by local school districts. His confusing admonitions for parents to “listen to your principal” and “trust the legal process” were nothing more than damage control for the chaos he has created.

Mr. Youngkin speaks in platitudes, such as “the rights of parents” and the biblical exhortation to “love your neighbor.” But what do these mean in the context of a deadly pandemic? Where’s the concern for personal responsibility toward others, shared sacrifice and the common good? Though the governor acts as though parental rights are written in stone, no one has an absolute right to something that adversely affects the health and safety of all.

He could hardly be off to a worse start.

David Berry, Annandale

As I read the Jan. 25 Metro article about the Virginia governor’s admonition to “love your neighbor,” I was struck by his hypocrisy. How can one demonstrate loving one’s neighbor by possibly willfully exposing them to a deadly virus? It has been proved that wearing a mask can reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, and yet Gov. Glenn Youngkin and those who agree with him that masks should be voluntary in schools are missing the irony that this is the opposite of loving one’s neighbor.

Parents who assert that it should be up to them to decide whether their child wears a mask are being callous to teachers and other school personnel who take risks every day to educate their children. And they are ignoring the possibility that if the virus spreads rampantly enough, schools might have to close again. No one, regardless of faith or political persuasion, wants that.

I sincerely hope those individuals, starting with the governor, will rethink what it means to care for and, yes, love one’s neighbor.

Nancy Scott, Alexandria

The Jan. 24 editorial “Mr. Youngkin’s promising pick” endorsed Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desire to create more quality charter schools in Virginia, noting “no amount of money will matter if Virginia doesn’t change its antiquated laws that give local school districts the ability to veto the creation of charters.”

The following day, the editorial “Mr. Youngkin puts education at risk” condemned Mr. Youngkin’s “mask-optional order,” declaiming he showed “his disdain for Virginia’s constitution, which specifies that ‘the supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board.’ ”

Those words in Article VIII, Section 7 are also the words behind which local school boards hide with “antiquated laws” giving them unfettered control over public schools in places such as Petersburg, Richmond and Norfolk, where 40 percent of children cannot read on grade level — failing to effectively reform internal operations and refusing to permit independent public charter schools that might offer children hope and opportunity.

Those words have made local boards unaccountable to any higher authority and frequently unaccountable to the very parents and students they are intended to serve. The Post seeks to have it both ways. It cannot.

Chris Braunlich, Alexandria

The writer, president of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, is a former president of the Virginia Board of Education.

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