Democratic Senators Petersen and Lewis Join Republicans to Pass School Mask Opt-Out Bill

The Virginia Senate passed a bill that will allow parents to opt their children out of wearing masks at school. Democratic Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Lynwood Lewis Jr. (D-Accomack) joined with Republicans to pass SB 739 after the Senate debated the bill for over an hour on Wednesday.

Bill sponsor Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), an OB/GYN, said during debate, “Two years into this pandemic, keeping unproven measures in place is no longer justifiable. We must evolve; science doesn’t stand still. We did masks and boxes and other things because we thought maybe they might help but they have not proven to do so. I will say further that you have before you a conflict between two constitutional priorities in Virginia. One is that school boards get to decide policy for their districts. But the other is that we are a parental rights state. You’re going to have to choose which authority, ceded by the Constitution, you’re going to stand by today.”

Read More

Virginia Supreme Court Dismisses One of the Lawsuits Against Youngkin’s Mask Mandate Opt-Out Order

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.”

Read More

Arlington Judge Blocks Enforcement of Virginia Gov. Youngkin Mask Opt-Out Order

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.

Read More

Seven School Boards Sue Over Youngkin Mask-Optional Order; Sen. Petersen Threatens Legislative Action if Schools Don’t Find Mandate Off-Ramp

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.

Read More

Amid Legal Doubt over Youngkin Mask Opt-Out Order, Virginia Departments of Health and Education Emphasize Parents, Officials Share Responsibility for COVID-19 Mitigation

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.

Read More

Chesapeake School Parents Sue Governor Youngkin Over School Mask Mandate Ban

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.

Read More

Virginia Senate Bill 1303 Complicates Roanoke County School Board Effort to Make Masks Optional After Youngkin Takes Office

The Roanoke County School Board voted Tuesday to make masks optional once Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin takes office. On Thursday, they reversed that decision, citing potential legal complications.

“Upon Governor-elect Youngkin’s administration’s canceling of the current VDH public health order, Roanoke County Public Schools will immediately become mask optional and return to pre-COVID medical policies, leaving medical decisions such as testing, quarantining, contact tracing between the doctor and their student patient or the student’s parents and guardians,” Board Member Cheryl Facciani said in her motion.

Read More

King William School Board Sends Letter to Governor, Health Officials Asking for End to Mask Mandate

The King William School Board voted four to one to send a letter to Governor Ralph Northam and other top Virginia officials criticizing a mask mandate in schools.

“We believe that Senate Bill 1303 passed by the Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Northam is unconstitutional. In its current form, this law oversteps the authority of both the General Assembly and the governor by encroaching on the authority granted to school boards by the Constitution of Virginia. This law is just one of many recent examples of government overreach that infringes upon our ability to fulfill our duties and make local decisions for our community,” the letter states.

Read More

Some Virginia Schools Temporarily Close or Go Virtual When Dealing with COVID-19 Cases

Virginia public schools are reopening under a new law, SB 1303, which requires all schools to make in-person instruction available for the minimum standard required instructional hours — virtual learning can be provided, but must be optional. However, that doesn’t mean that local districts can’t choose to go virtual-only for limited amounts of time, as Rappahanock County Public Schools is currently demonstrating. On Monday, the district announced that amid rising COVID-19 and flu cases, the school was moving to virtual-only until August 27 while the district implements new mitigation strategies.

Read More

Virginia Gov. Northam Mandates Masks in Private and Public K-12 Schools

Governor Ralph Northam mandated masks at indoor settings for all people over age two at public and private K-12 schools in Virginia.

Northam said in a Thursday announcement, “This Public Health Order makes it very clear that masks are required in all indoor K-12 settings, and Virginia expects all schools to comply.”

Read More

Northam Says Virginia State Employees Must Get Vaccinated or Face Weekly Tests; Says Schools Must Require Masks

Doctor giving vaccination to patient

Governor Ralph Northam announced Thursday that all state employees will be required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated or take COVID-19 tests every week. Local governments and private employers are considering similar moves

“Governor Northam’s action comes as the highly transmissible Delta variant is driving up cases across the Commonwealth and around the country, primarily among unvaccinated people,” Northam’s press release explains.

Read More

Northam Acts on 552 General Assembly Bills from 2021 Sessions

Governor Ralph Northam announced the signing of 14 bills on Wednesday, March 31, which was a deadline for the Governor to take action on legislation passed in the 2021 General Assembly sessions. According to his announcement, took action on 552 bills with no vetoes, although he sent some back to the General Assembly with amendments.

Read More

Dunnavant’s In-Person Learning Bill Moves out of Committee

The House Education Committee voted Monday to approve changes to Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) bill to require schools to provide in-person learning. After passing the Senate with bipartisan support, the House of Delegates Education Committee proposed a substitute that Republicans said would have effectively left the status quo intact. However, Dunnavant worked with the committee to create a new substitute including specific definitions for the in-person requirement, creating a compromise bill that received bipartisan support in the committee. The bill would be effective for the 2021-2022 school year — efforts to give the bill emergency status were shot down.

Read More

Bipartisan Effort to Create an In-Person Learning Bill Slowly Moving Through the Virginia General Assembly

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) SB 1303 requiring schools to provide both in-person and virtual learning options is still moving through the House of Delegates, but slowly. Dunnavant’s bill earned bipartisan support in the Senate, thanks in part to support from Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) and Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond.) But a House Education subcommittee initially introduced several amendments to the bill that would effectively leave the status quo intact, prompting opposition from House Republicans

Read More

General Assembly Votes to Give Virginia Teachers a Raise, Senate Passes In-Person Learning Bills

The House of Delegates and the Senate both voted to give Virginia teachers’ a pay raise in the budget bills passed with bipartisan support Friday. HB 1800, passed 68 to 30, features a five percent teachers’ raise for Fiscal Year 2022, while its counterpart SB 1100, which features a three percent teachers’ raise, passed 31 to eight. The Senate also passed an amendment to the budget that requires schools to provide in-person learning options in 2021-2022; however, the House defeated a similar floor amendment on Friday.

Read More