Disabled Army veteran pushes back on Montgomery County School Board on mask mandate during meetings

New River Valley News

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Disabled Montgomery County veteran J.R. says his daughter’s and granddaughter’s school board keeps kicking him out of meetings because he is physically unable to wear a mask or face shield amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“To be honest, I’d like to have a school board that actually listens to their parent because at the end of the day, I do believe parents have the best interest for their children at heart,” said J.R.

He says this all started when he was preparing to be deployed to Iraq during the war. His unit was doing training when nine soldiers, including J.R., were struck by lightning.

That strike caused a brain injury, making him vulnerable to frequent seizures — nearly dozens in one day.

“I know I have multiple other issues, as far as back issues, neck issues, my knees, and shoulders are messed up from the seizures,” said J.R.

J.R. says he is medically exempt from the COVID-19 mask mandates and vaccinations. If his face gets hot, he can end up having an episode.

When the pandemic started, he says he tried to wear a mask. However, health officials at the Salem VA Medical Center wrote him an exemption form and told him not to wear one.

J.R. says that wasn’t enough for the Montgomery County School Board officials to allow him to be exempt from wearing a face covering at their meetings.

“They said that they can figure out accommodation, but they did not have one that night. So they sent someone up there to tell me to leave or put on a mask. And they told me if I do not leave on my own accord, they would get the deputies to remove me,” said J.R.

J.R. did not quit. He tried two more times, with no luck. He even tried reaching out to officials, offering to be socially distanced from others. Still, they did not budge.

In response, the Montgomery County Public Schools sent WFXR news this statement.

“Masks are required in all MCPS buildings.  Face shields are allowed for those who do not wish to wear a mask. For those who wish to not wear any face covering, meeting materials are available online as are recordings of the meetings.”

Montgomery County School Board

J.R. says the school board’s solution does not work for him either, because staring at screens can also cause episodes.

He added that he is a member of the ‘Second-Member Constitution Group’ and learning about decisions being made in the lives of his loved ones, makes him want to take an active role in his family’s education.

The group is gearing up for the Nov. 9 school board meeting because that is when the school will discuss whether or not children 11 and younger should be vaccinated in schools.

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