Staff vaccine mandate, displays of LGBTQ+ support discussed at Montgomery County School Board meeting

New River Valley News

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Two major topics were up for debate among community members and school officials at Tuesday night’s Montgomery County School Board meeting — the uncertainty surrounding current and future vaccine mandates, as well as rules about displaying support for LGBTQIA students.

Ahead of the school board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 9 protesters stood outside the building, calling for bans on masks, vaccine mandates, and critical race theory from schools.

“What we are fighting for is for the parents right, to how their children are going to be educated, and how they are going to be taught. We are also fighting for our freedom to wear a mask,” said Joanne Price, a member of the Second Monday Constitution Group.

The members of the Montgomery County School Board, though, mainly focused on vaccine mandates.

A recent federal mandate requires organizations with more than 100 employees to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly tests for the virus, but that rule is currently tied up in federal court.

However, a legal advisor for the school board says Virginia may hand down its own mandate to enforce the same requirements. According to the advisor, it may be best for the school districts to make moves to require those vaccines and have plans in place to make sure medical records stay secure.

At that point, it would be up to the school board to adopt a policy and then implement that among workers.

“I do think that as a system of a school board, we should think about doing what we can to beat out misinformation and still try to increase the number of our staff that would get vaccinated voluntarily,” said a member of the Montgomery County School Board.

There were a few people who attended the meeting to speak against the vaccine mandate.

One substitute teacher says he believes it should not come down to a mandate, but instead should be left up to the workers and their doctors.

Montgomery County Public Schools says that if staff members do not want to be vaccinated, they can agree to be tested for the coronavirus weekly.

Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, a letter was presented to the Montgomery County School Board, asking that teachers be allowed to display LGBTQIA support and safe space materials in their classrooms.

Members of the Southwest Virginia Chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network — who presented the letter — say this action goes beyond making sure everyone feels safe and included. It also allows students to identify supportive staff by looking for pride flags and safe space stickers.

The school board has not made a decision about whether they will let teachers display such materials.

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