Psaki defends kids’ school district in dispute with Virginia’s GOP governor on mask mandates

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended schools in Arlington County for wanting to keep mask mandates in place as Virginia’s new Republican governor rolled back the mandates.

Ms Psaki quote-tweeted a video featuring newly sworn-in governor, Glenn Youngkin, who issued an executive order on his first day in office stating that parents enrolled in schools or childcare in the commonwealth could “elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational programme”.

But Arlington Public Schools said in a statement on Saturday that it would still require all staff and students to wear masks.

“Universal mask use has proven effective in keeping Covid-19 transmission rates low in our schools and ensuring schools remain safe and open,” the school system said in a statement.

In response, Mr Youngkin told a reporter that his executive order gave schools eight days to comply with the order.

“What that tells me is they haven’t listened to parents yet,” he said. “And if there’s one thing that everybody heard in November is it is time to listen to parents. So in the course of this week, I hope they will listen to parents because we will use every resource within the governor’s authority to explore what we can do and will do in order to make sure that parents’ rights are protected.”

Mr Youngkin largely campaigned on white suburban parents’ objections to the teaching of “Critical Race Theory”, a niche legal theory that has become a catch-all among conservatives for any type of teaching about racial bias. But he also said in the campaign that “there should not be a statewide school mask mandate”.

In response, Ms Psaki tweeted from her personal account that she is a parent of children in Arlington County schools.

“Hi there. Arlington county parent here (don’t believe you are @GlennYoungkin but correct me if I am wrong),” Ms Psaki tweeted. “Thank you to @APSVirginia for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant.”

Mr Youngkin was sworn in on Saturday, becoming Virginia’s first Republican governor in a decade despite the commonwealth voting for Joe Biden overwhelmingly. He beat former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe.