Republicans’ fave elite prep schools have mask and vax mandates, despite Cruz and Carlson’s whining

I went to one of these schools, the Horace Mann School, in the Bronx. The campus has reconfigured classrooms, laboratories, libraries, and dining halls for social distancing, set up tents for outdoor classes, and requires all students to complete a daily symptom-check form. My alma mater has indoor mask and vaccination mandates for all eligible students and staff, and any requests for religious or medical exemptions are subject to review by a special committee.

Oxbridge was established in 2011 by billionaire Bill Koch, a businessman, yachtsman, and collector. The political advocacy network founded by Charles and David Koch did not donate to Trump’s campaigns in 2016 and 2020, but Bill Koch broke with his brothers and hosted a fundraiser for Trump in 2016, and held a special “thank you” event for mega-donors at his Palm Beach home in 2020, which was attended by Jared Kushner.

On July 27, Donald Trump blasted the Biden administration after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended indoor mask mandates for all K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.

“We won’t go back,” Trump wrote with his signature abuse of capitalization. “We won’t mask our children. Joe Biden and his Administration learned nothing from the last year. Brave Americans learned how to safely and responsibly live and fight back. Don’t surrender to COVID,” he added. “Don’t go back! Why do Democrats distrust the science? Don’t let this happen to our children or our Country.”

So what is Oxbridge Academy’s mask policy—in a state where Gov. Ron DeSantis has tried to block funding for public school districts that impose mask mandates?

The school issued a 30-page student COVID-19 handbook, which states, “Face coverings are an integral part in decreasing the risk of COVID-19 during school” (pages 24-27). It requires that masks must be worn indoors at all times ,with a few exceptions (playing an instrument), on school buses, and outdoors—when students are less than six feet from each other.

There are also penalties for infractions. A student who comes to school without a face covering will be given a paper mask for the day and “receive education about the importance of face coverings for the safety” of the entire Oxbridge community. For a second infraction, a student will be sent home immediately and required to take classes virtually for the day. Repeated violations will be regarded as “disruptive behavior with appropriate disciplinary consequences.”

Now here’s my favorite part of the handbook, especially given the disruptive behavior of MAGAts regarding COVID-19 mandates: The school will not tolerate “any bullying or harassment related to COVID-19, including the origin of the virus, vaccination status, and use of face masks.”

By the way, The Palm Beach Post reported that Oxbridge was closed Friday, as the state Health Department conducted an “epidemiological investigation.” No further details were provided.

Now let’s look at an even more elite private school: St. George’s School, whose notable alumni include several Astors and Bushes, a Vanderbilt, former Rhode Island Sen. Claiborne Pell, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Its alumni also include Tucker Carlson. He met his future wife, Susan Andrews, the headmaster’s daughter, while both were students at the boarding school, and at least one of his four children attended St. George’s.

St. George’s has a mask-optional policy. But that’s only because the school has one of the strictest vaccine mandates anywhere. St. George’s requires that all students, faculty, staff, and eligible campus residents (over the age of 12) be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (except where medical or religious exemptions apply). The religious exemption only applies to students with previously documented religious exemptions.

Those students granted exemptions have to wear masks, and must refrain from participating on any sports teams or hosting any off-campus visitors.

What’s more, St. George’s requires that all visitors to the campus must be vaccinated, without exception. Family members must provide proof of vaccination to come to campus. Siblings or friends under the age of 12 are barred from visiting the campus. Even visiting sports teams must be fully vaccinated to compete on the St. George campus. Additionally, all visitors to campus must wear a mask indoors.

Carlson was quick to condemn colleges for requiring students to get vaccinated before returning to campus. In May, he accused Joe Biden and other Democrats of forcing college students to make a choice between getting vaccinated or being denied an education.

”If the authorities are permitted to control a health care decision this intimate, if they can force you and your children to take a vaccine you don’t want and are afraid of, then what can’t they do? Nothing.

“They will have total power over your body and your mind forever. What’s the limit to their power? There isn’t one.

I wonder if Tucker ever publicly denounced St. George’s for its strict vaccine policy. Oxbridge and St. George’s are typical of the nation’s elite private schools when it comes to COVID-19 policies. Here are some other examples among the highest-ranked  and most exclusive private schools. 

Phillips Academy, in Andover, Massachusetts: Vaccine and indoor mask mandate, all students tested twice a week. Students who are not fully vaccinated may not leave campus.

The Hotchkiss School, in Lakeville, Connecticut: Vaccine and indoor mask mandate, weekly testing required for any unvaccinated students, testing required for students who go off campus for weekends. Visitors are restricted to outdoor locations. 

Groton School, in Groton, Massachusetts: Vaccine and indoor mask mandate, weekly testing, all visitors to campus must be fully vaccinated and wear masks indoors.

Phillips Exeter Academy, in Exeter, New Hampshire: Vaccine mandate, mask-use optional, twice weekly testing for unvaccinated or partly vaccinated students.

St. Mark’s School, in Dallas, Texas: Indoor mask mandate.

On Aug. 13, St. Mark’s headmaster David W. Dini sent out a community update message to students and parents. While Texas’ governor was acting to ban public school districts from introducing mask mandates, St. Mark’s decided to enact a mask mandate.

The headmaster wrote:

“We have all followed the shifting landscape in recent days regarding how to address the rapidly deteriorating health conditions in our area, most of which we had hoped were in the rear-view mirror. 

“The major question we’ve been wrestling with over the past few weeks is how to respond to the guidance related to masking on campus. We are grateful that more than 95% of our 250 employees and nearly 75% of our boys in grades 7-12 (which is two-thirds of our total student body) are vaccinated. …

“In recent weeks there has been an alarming uptick in the number and severity of pediatric cases, including in North Texas. In conversations with UT Southwestern and Children’s Medical Center this week, we’ve learned how much pressure our pediatric care facilities are currently facing, which affects not only risks associated with the pandemic, but also other pediatric emergencies or critical care needs that emerge during this tenuous time.

“Thus, we have made the decision to open the school year with indoor masking for all students and adults on campus, including teachers, professional staff, parents, and visitors.”

So while many Republican governors—aided by right-wing media outlets like Fox News—are working to prevent public schools from imposing vaccine or even mask mandates to protect children, the nation’s elite private schools tasked with educating many of the right’s most vocal leaders see these mandates as absolutely necessary. 

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