Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is expected to sign legislation Wednesday afternoon to block school boards from imposing mask mandates and require schools to offer in-person instruction five days per week.
The bill in question, passed by the state House and Senate, provides that parents may choose to send their children to school without a mask and without providing an explanation, and it says that schools cannot punish students for their parents’ decision to opt them out of wearing masks.
Schools will have to comply by March 1 at the latest, thanks to an emergency clause Youngkin proposed, 13 News Now reported.
“I am pleased that there is widespread and bipartisan support in Virginia for a parental opt-out of mask mandates in schools,” Youngkin said Monday, according to 13 News Now. “The General Assembly took a significant step for parents and children. After passing both chambers of the General Assembly, SB 739 will give parents a choice regarding their child’s health, education, upbringing, and care.”
One of Youngkin’s first moves after taking office in January was to publish an executive order banning mask mandates in the state, but several school districts have fought the order in court.
The state Supreme Court dismissed some Chesapeake parents’ effort to keep universal, in-school masking on Feb. 7, but an Arlington judge granted Northern Virginia school districts a temporary restraining order against compliance with the the rule so that they could keep mandates in place.
As blue states and prominent Democrats backpedaled their aggressive pro-masking stances in early February, Fairfax County announced an off-ramp to school masking while still engaged in a legal battle against Youngkin’s executive order Thursday, and several Virginia Democrats voted to end mask mandates on Feb. 9.