Nineteen-year-old Robert Walsh died by suicide on June 29, 2021. Closed schools, widespread mask requirements, and the influence of Critical Race Theory contributed to his death, his mother Cynthia Walsh told The Daily Wire.
Robert was a member of the Chantilly High School class of 2020 in Fairfax, Virginia, when schools shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic. He had autism, and needed access to a counselor. “They had one he could talk to online, but it’s not the same. He’d just stop talking after five minutes,” she said.
She told The Daily Wire that her son found joy in computers, including 3-D printing, but online classes amounted to simply letting “everyone pass,” rather than identifying who needed extra help. In place of academics, she said, the Fairfax County Public Schools had a constant focus on race and oppression.
Robert had “triggers” because of his autism, Cynthia said. “He needed reminders that he was a valuable person. But what they hear in every class is just the opposite: that if you’re black you’re oppressed, and if you’re white you’re an oppressor.” This created an atmosphere of pessimism and despondency that her son could pick up on, she said.
Several months after the beginning of the pandemic, he graduated without fanfare. “His graduation was a drive-through graduation. No prom, no graduation. None of the events kids have. It was supposed to be six weeks to slow the spread. But he never got to say goodbye.”
“They talk about ‘white fragility,’ that you’re too weak for things. Well, he died.”
“He was empathetic. He felt people’s emotions. He needed to hear over and over again that he was a good person,” she said.
Robert’s twin brother went off to college, but government policies left Robert behind, she said. He was going to have an internship with the Fairfax government, but the government closed its offices.
Then there were mask policies. His fallback plan was to work in retail, but “he had a speech impediment as it was, and when he wore a mask you just couldn’t understand him … he would have to talk to customers and they couldn’t understand him through the mask. And that was a trigger for him.”
For months, Cynthia had wanted to tell the Fairfax County School Board how she believes these policies contributed to his death. She put it off because it was too hard. “I finally said, ‘if I don’t say it now, I never will.’ I’m relieved that I said it. I just wrote what I was feeling,” she said.
On March 10, she spoke during the public comment period of a school board meeting. Choking back tears, she told its members:
My son Robert took his life because he thought that all of the oppression was his fault. There were times he felt excluded because he had to use electives for speech therapy. His expressive language would be even worse while wearing a mask. You need to be inclusive to every student. Be inclusive to those who have special needs or not. Be inclusive to those who are masked or unmasked, vaccinated or unvaccinated. Every race, every life, every student matters. No one wants you to stop teaching black history. But please do not do it in a way that makes his life worth any less. My son was not responsible for everyone’s problems. His success does not mean anyone else had to fail. His life mattered. He was important and valued. His emotional disability led him to the conclusion that any success he had, he did not deserve. Robert deserves more. Rest in peace.
Parents in the auditorium stood up to give her a standing ovation, recognizing her grief. Some in the crowd had visibly watery eyes. As she returned to her seat, moms she had never met embraced her.
But not the school board. Its members stared blankly ahead, showing no reaction.
Their response? “Thank you. Our next speaker.”
The Daily Wire was in attendance at the meeting and observed no emotion on the faces of any of the nine school board members who were present — though some wore masks, making reading emotions difficult.
This is an excerpt from The Daily Wire.
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