U.S. District Court, Western District of Virginia Judge Norman Moon has issued a temporary injunction in a lawsuit by 12 parents of children at high risk due to COVID-19, blocking enforcement of Virginia’s new law and executive order requiring school mask mandate opt outs. The injunction is narrowly focused on the plaintiffs, and the order is careful to clarify that both the executive order and the law remain in effect in Virginia.
“E.O. 2 and S.B. 739 are the law in Virginia and they remain in force, affording parents the choice whether their children should wear masks to school, notwithstanding any school rule that would require students to wear masks.
The Court’s decision and injunction today directly impact only the twelve Plaintiffs in this case. The Court enjoins Defendants from enforcing E.O. 2 and S.B. 739 only as against these Plaintiffs in their ability to ask for (not definitely to receive) from their schools some amount of masking as a reasonable modification,” Moon wrote in the order issued Wednesday.
RICHMOND, Virginia – Governor Glenn Youngkin signed a school mask-optional bill into law from the steps of the capitol on Wednesday afternoon, hours after the House of Delegates approved his amendments adding an emergency clause and a March 1 effective date.
“Today, we are reestablishing, restoring power back from parents. We are also reestablishing our expectations that we will get back to normal, and this is the path, this is the path. So thank you all for coming. And now, we’re going to do a little work,” Youngkin told the crowd before signing the bill.
Virginia’s Democrat-controlled Senate is suddenly about to pass a bill allowing parents to opt their children out of wearing masks. In Tuesday’s session, Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) amended Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) in-person learning bill to include the mask-opt-out clause – and 10 out of 21 Democrats voted with Republicans to approve the change, setting up the bill for final passage on Wednesday.
Despite vocal Democrats and some urban school boards pushing back against Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order requiring a school mask mandate opt-out, Petersen has been calling for a masking off-ramp. On Monday, he sent a letter to several northern Virginia schools warning of his plans to introduce legislation to that effect. He argued that mask-wearing is a political decision.
The Supreme Court of Virginia dismissed a lawsuit from Chesapeake parents challenging Governor Glenn Youngkin’s school mask mandate opt-out order. The Monday opinion found procedural problems with the lawsuit, which in an unusual move was filed directly with the Supreme Court instead of a lower court. It also found that state law used to support rigid mask mandates allows school boards flexibility, but warned that it was not offering an opinion on the legality of Youngkin’s underlying Executive Order Two.
“By allowing school boards to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended COVID-19 mitigation strategies ‘to the maximum extent practicable,’ SB 1303 necessarily gives the boards a degree of discretion to modify or even forgo those strategies as
they deem appropriate for their individual circumstances,” the court wrote. “With respect to implementing policies on student masking, that discretion persists even if EO 2’s masking exemption provisions are unlawful.”
After oral arguments on Wednesday, Arlington County Circuit Court Judge Louise DiMatteo granted a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s school mask mandate opt-out Executive Order Two. In the opinion issued Friday, DiMatteo declined to decide on the validity of Youngkin’s mask policy, but found that the lawsuit is likely to succeed on the merits, thanks to state law.
“The efficacy of the Governor’s school mask policy contained in EO2 does not bear upon whether he has the authority to issue it,” DiMatteo said in the opinion.
Governor Glenn Youngkin has a 44 percent favorable, 42 percent unfavorable rating, according to a new survey from Public Policy Polling conducted about a week-and-a-half into the new administration. However, only 44 percent of respondents approved of Youngkin’s job performance on COVID-19, while 47 percent disapprove — within the plus-or-minus 3.8 percent margin of error. On specific questions about COVID-19 policy, the poll found more separation, including that 55 percent disagree with Youngkin’s EO Two ending school mask mandates, versus 40 percent who agree.
“Virginians are also supportive of school boards across the state, agreeing that local school boards that oppose Youngkin’s order removing mask mandates in schools and have filed lawsuits are right. Voters support the school boards by a 15-point margin (55-40). By an even larger 25-point margin (56-31), Virginia voters say they think local school districts should set mask requirements themselves, rather than have the mask requirements set by Youngkin,” PPP reported.
Seven school districts are suing Governor Glenn Youngkin over Executive Order Two, which requires schools to allow parents to opt children out of mask mandates. The lawsuit challenges Youngkin’s authority over school boards and his ability to override Senate Bill 1303, which requires schools to follow CDC guidelines.
“At issue is whether locally-elected school boards 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. Also at issue is whether a governor can, through executive order, without legislative action by the Virginia General Assembly, reverse a lawfully-adopted statute,” Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) said in a Monday press release.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Department of Education (VDOE) updated their guidelines to reflect Governor Glenn Youngkin’s mask-mandate opt-out order. The new guidance downplays masks and says COVID-19 risk reduction is a shared responsibility between parents and officials.
“These three core principles found in Executive Order 2 reaffirm: 1. Parents are in charge of their children’s health, wellbeing and education, 2. Schools must be open five days a week for in-person learning, and 3. The Commonwealth and school divisions must provide a safe and healthy school environment,” the new guidance states.
Thirteen parents from the Chesapeake school district are suing Governor Glenn Youngkin over his Executive Order Two which requires districts to allow parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates, no reason required. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, says Youngkin’s order violates of separation of powers, since it violates SB 1303, which requires schools to comply with CDC mitigation strategies.
“Executive Order Number Two purports to sweep aside masking mandates and other protections with little or no consideration of or respect for CDC guidance, actions taken by the Virginia General Assembly, or the powers vested in school boards,” the lawsuit states, according to a copy obtained by ABC7.
Governor Glenn Youngkin signed nine executive orders and two executive directives on Saturday shortly after the inauguration. Three of the orders focus specifically on school policy, banning the use of “divisive concepts,” allowing parents to opt their children out of school mask policies, and requesting Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate the Loudoun County Public Schools.