Virginia Governors Race

Seven Virginia School Boards Sue After Gov. Youngkin Makes Masks Optional

Kendall Tietz

Seven Virginia school boards are taking legal action over Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order that made masks optional in the state’s schools starting Monday.

Youngkin issued an executive order upon taking office Jan. 15 which seeks to “empower Virginia parents in their children’s education and upbringing by allowing parents to make decisions on whether their child wears a mask in school.”

The school boards of districts in Alexandria City, Arlington County, the City of Richmond, Fairfax County, Falls Church City, Hampton City and Prince William County filed a joint lawsuit Monday arguing that Youngkin’s executive order is unconstitutional and unsafe for students, according to a joint statement released by the school districts. The school boards also argued that the state constitution gives them the authority to run their districts as they see fit.

“At issue is whether locally-elected school boards will have the exclusive authority and responsibility conferred upon them by Article VIII, Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia over supervision of the public schools in their respective communities, or whether an executive order can unilaterally override that constitutional authority,” according to the statement.

The legal action also questions whether a governor can reverse a lawfully-adopted statute, specifically SB 1303, which requires school boards to provide “mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The CDC recommends that students, staff, teachers and visitors wear masks at school, regardless of vaccination status, as part of its mitigation guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms.

“Today’s action is not politically motivated,” the lawsuit announcement reads. “These seven school divisions would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the governor to ensure the safety and welfare of all students.”

“As parents and educators have observed, many children wear masks incorrectly, providing little or no health benefit,” Youngkin’s executive order reads. “The masks worn by children are often ineffective because they are made from cloth material, and they are often not clean, resulting in the collection of impurities, including bacteria and parasites.”

School districts across Virginia plan to defy the governor’s executive order that allows parents to decide whether or not their children should wear masks at school.

“I have said all along that we are going to stand up for parents,” Youngkin said in a Friday statement. “Executive Order 2 is not about pro-masks versus anti-mask, it’s about empowering parents.”

Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) said it would keep its newly updated “Mask and Mitigation Plan” in place Monday, according to a Sunday email sent to district parents and reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The district addressed parents’, students’ and staffs’ plans to reportedly “disregard the mandate to wear masks to school,” reminding them of the new guidelines that the school board voted to amend on Jan. 18.

Under these new rules, students who don’t wear masks will be required to quarantine for 10 days if they are deemed a close contact, which the district defined as any instance where students are closer than six feet apart without a mask on. Although, students who wear masks and are three or more feet apart are not considered close contacts, according to the LCPS rules.

LCPS said students who don’t wear masks will be asked to wear one, and if they refuse, “staff will meet with the student and contact their parent/guardian to discuss and identify the reason the student will not comply.”

Scott Mineo, co-founder of Parents Against Critical Theory (PACT), told the DCNF that LCPS students declining to wear a mask are being segregated into separate rooms, such as libraries or auditoriums.

Mineo said his daughter was sent home Monday for refusing to comply with LCPS’ mask requirement, and his wife, who is a teacher in the district, was sent home without pay when she also showed up to school without a mask. Mineo said he is delivering pizzas around the county to maskless students who have been forced out of classrooms into separate holding areas.

Last week, teachers across northern Virginia in districts such as Alexandria County Public Schools (ACPS), Prince William County Public Schools (PWCPS), Arlington Public Schools (APS), Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and LCPS reportedly vowed to exclude and bully maskless students.

ACPS, APS, FCPS, LCPS, Falls Church City Schools, Manassas City Public Schools, Stafford County Public Schools, Fredericksburg City Public Schools and PWCPS are all requiring masks, according to NBC 4 Washington.

Just days after Youngkin announced the mask mandate repeal, ACPS doubled down on its plans to require masks for students, announcing in an email that the district received a shipment of KN-95 masks and other surgical masks that could be used for double masking.

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