CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — In what was supposed to be his second year teaching full time at Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS), history and government educator Stephen Roszel has been terminated after speaking out against and refusing to comply with the school division’s mask mandate.
Roszel’s termination was recommended by CCPS Superintendent Dr. Merv Daughtery and approved unanimously by the School Board at its Tuesday meeting.
“I am refusing to comply with mask mandates and to force students to comply with mask mandates, and so I am losing my job as a Chesterfield County employee,” Roszel told 8News before the meeting. “My ultimate hope is that they do not vote for termination, and that they get rid of the mandates and I can go back into the classroom, and myself, the students and other teachers will be able to teach, masked or unmasked, according to their choice.”
The School Board held a closed work session prior to its public meeting, so it is unknown exactly how the conversation among board members went. However, upon opening the public meeting, the School Board voted in favor of the superintendent’s recommendation.
“I’m not opposed to masks. I’m not opposed to vaccines. I’m fully vaccinated. I wore a mask all last year teaching,” Roszel said. “As a teacher of civics and government, where we teach founding principles of consent of the govern, limited governments, I feel that I would be doing my students a disservice if I complied with these types of mandates, while teaching them the exact opposite.”
In August, a public health order went into effect in Virginia, requiring all students and staff in K-12 schools throughout the commonwealth to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. That same month, the Chesterfield County School Board voted unanimously to require masks in its schools.
“The scientific data is clear that masking and vaccines are the way out of this pandemic, and masking and vaccines have not been something new to this country,” one community member said during the public comment period Tuesday night. “This country has mandated inoculation since George Washington, and it had mask mandates during the Spanish Flu. So anybody saying that this is a fight for freedom is inventing something out of whole cloth.”
Before the School Board’s closed session and also during the public comment period, Roszel and Chesterfield County parent Anne Taydus spoke out. In addition to rallying without about a dozen other community members in support of Roszel, Taydus said that she feels like her side of the argument isn’t being heard.
“It is not even the belief of whether — of masking or vaccination,” she told 8News. “It’s a freedom of choice and it’s a freedom against mandates, and so we are here to support him.”
Taydus also had petitions available for other county residents to sign, calling for the removal of Midlothian District Representative Kathryn Haines from the board.
“It’s not about whether I’m pro-vax or anything,” Taydus said. “It comes down to the fact that your job, as a School Board member, is to represent these children; not to keep the school doors open, not to keep the government appeased.”
Although community members are permitted to speak directly to the board during the public comment period, board members do not respond during this time. However, prior to the invocation, CCPS School Board Chair and Matoaca District Representative Ryan Harter addressed the role of the board and its intentions.
“Every decision that comes before this board is thoroughly researched, factually validated, and discussed with the collective advice and wisdom of our educational leaders,” Harter said. “Although we do not respond during public comment, we are listening. If there’s something within our control, that can be improved, we do not shy away from the work.”
The School Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Nov. 9.