Brave mama bear Carrie Lukas walked two of her cubs, fourth grader, Maggie, 9, and first grader Max, 7, up to the front doors of Forestville Elementary School here in Fairfax County, Va., for another day at school, but an interim assistant principal barred the two young children entry into the school, citing the school district’s mandatory mask policy.
The refusal of educational services raises legal issues for new Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares because of state law that protects the right of children in the Commonwealth of Virginia to receive educational services and a new executive order by Youngkin allowing parents the right to choose if their children wear masks at school.
An officious security official for the school district and a community relations official for the school district, both dispatched to the school over the mask issue, tangled with a local reporter (and local father) whom they demanded stand on the nearby sidewalk. Later, school officials called Fairfax County Police and squad cars arrived, the school district posting a tweet that the police were called on the journalist, not the mother and her children.
The issue of course is that many parents want the right to exercise their rights under Youngkin’s executive order and Carrie is one of those mothers, but the school district is blocking the exercise of that right, in fact now suing the governor to enforce their mask requirement.
The school is one that I know well.
Forestville Elementary School is home of the Cardinals, set off Route 7, not far from a 7-11 and the scenic Potomac River. While my son didn’t go to Forestville Elementary School for his education, attending nearby Great Falls Elementary School, he played basketball in its gym, ran the bases on the baseball diamonds outside the school and cast his first vote on Election Day when the school turned into a polling place.
What Maggie and Max experienced Tuesday was a civics lesson like no other.
They saw their mother overcome her own personal fears to stand up for a principle in which she believes: parental choice. These young ones transcended their own uncertainties about what their friends would think of them to stand up for their right to attend school without their faces covered.
“Let kids breathe,” Maggie said, holding a handmade sign with the same message.
At the nearby IHop afterwards, as Maggie and Max ate the “Funny Face” chocolate pancake special, I showed them a photo of the 12 school board members who make decisions at Fairfax County Public Schools and asked them, “Do you know what the word ‘constituent’ means?’”
They smiled and shook their heads no.
“It means you!” I said. “You are constituents!”
I explained to them that it’s taken many of us adults many years to understand who makes policies about public schools, and they were ahead of many adults on that learning curve. I showed them the photo of the board member, Elaine Tholen, from the Dranesville District, who represents them. Write to her, I suggested. Call her. Let her hear from you.
Their mother is a parent like most parents, engaged, active and kind. Whatever your position on masks and education policy, we can all agree that our society is best served when our citizenry — from adults to children — are engaged.
In this case, a brave mama bear asserted her right to parental choice. And we should all stand with Carrie and her cubs, Maggie and Max. And get them back to school — so they can flash their own funny faces.
Asra Nomani is the Vice President for Strategy and Investigations at Parents Defending Education. This column is republished with permission from her Substack newsletter, Asra Investigates.