Virginia Court Issues Narrow Temporary Injunction in Favor of 12 Parents Who Sued over School Mask Mandate Opt-Out

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.

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Connecticut Organizer of ‘Moms for Bob’ Stefanowski: ‘We’re Not Just Republicans, We’re a Whole Demographic Who Feel Completely Ignored’ by Democrats in Hartford

Sarah Matthews

A Connecticut mom who has helped organize mothers who support Republican Bob Stefanowski for governor emphasized to The Connecticut Star her group is composed of moms of all political views who have felt ignored by the Democrats in Hartford ruling their state.

While Sarah Matthews is chairman of the Republican Town Committee in Fairfield, she said her informal organization of mothers supporting Stefanowski in his bid to block Democrat Governor Ned Lamont from another term is “not just Republicans.”

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Parents File Ethics Complaints Against Knox County Board of Education Members in Battle Against End to School Mask Mandate

A Knox County Schools (KCS) parent group fighting the end of school mask mandates has filed an ethics complaint against three members of the school board, alleging they violated one of the board’s own policies and also appeared at a Knox County Commission meeting without giving adequate public notice.

Parent Amanda Collins, who chairs Knox County Schools Parent Advocates for School Safety (KCS PASS), said in a press statement KCS board members Betsy Henderson, Susan Horn, and Kristi Kristy violated the board’s policy when they submitted a proposal to the Knox County Commission to hire private attorneys to help in the board’s fight against a lawsuit over masks in schools.

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Court: Virginia County Can’t Enforce Mask Rules, Must Expunge Punishments

A court ordered that Loudoun County, Virginia Public Schools cannot enforce its mask mandate on students and will need to expunge students’ records if they had been punished for not wearing masks.

Loudoun County schools had intended to end the mask mandate Feb. 22, but the court order requires them to end it immediately. The school district immediately complied with the order and sent a letter to the school community, students and staff that explained the new policy.

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Virginia Gov. Youngkin Signs School Mask-Optional Bill

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.

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Connecticut Governor’s Lifting of School Mask Mandate Depends on Legislature Voting to Extend His Emergency Powers

Connecticut children cannot be certain they can finally be free of wearing masks in school since, although Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said he would end the state school mask mandate by February 28, that plan may depend on the legislature voting to extend his pandemic emergency powers, and then on individual school districts.

In his State of the State address Wednesday, Lamont told residents he will roll back some coronavirus restrictions, including the school mask mandate, adding, “You have earned this freedom.”

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House Education Committee Promptly Advances School Mask-Optional Legislation

RICHMOND, Virginia – The House Education Committee voted to advance school mask-optional language in a special meeting Friday; Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) SB 739 was the only bill on the agenda.

As introduced in the Senate, Dunnavant’s original bill focused on in-person learning, but earlier this week Senator Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax City) moved to amend the bill to include the masking clause; that vote got broad support from both sides of the aisle. A later vote to pass the amended bill only had two Democrats supporting it, but that was enough to pass out of the Democrat-controlled Senate. On Wednesday, Delegate Amanda Batten (R-York) said that the sudden change surprised Republicans.

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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.”

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Connecticut Governor Lamont Plans to Eliminate School Mask Requirement

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said he is backing a plan that would eliminate statewide requirements that masks be worn in child care facilities and public and private schools in the state.

The governor announced he is working with the departments of public health and education to determine whether masks will continue to be a requirement beyond the Feb. 28 deadline.

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Nearly Half of Virginia Senate Democrats Support Legislation to Allow Parents to Opt Children Out of School Mask Mandates

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.

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Governor Glenn Youngkin Takes Oath of Office, Promises 11 Immediate Executive Actions on CRT, Masks, Vaccines, and Other Campaign Commitments

Governor Glenn Youngkin, Attorney General Jason Miyares, and Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears took their oaths of office on Saturday afternoon, followed by a howitzer salute from the Army National Guard. Then, Youngkin gave his first speech as governor, with an emphasis on a “common path forward” and with renewed promises from his campaign.

“Our politics have become too toxic. Soundbites have replaced solutions — taking precedence over good faith problem-solving,” he said. “My fellow Virginians, I come to this moment, and to this office, knowing we must bind the wounds of division. Restore trust. Find common cause for the common good.”

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Governor Youngkin Issues Executive Orders Banning CRT, Ending Mask Mandate Shortly After Taking Office

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.

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Parents Sue North Allegheny School District for Lifting Mask Mandate

Parents are suing the North Allegheny School District over its decision to lift the district’s mandatory mask mandate beginning next week, a move they claim could be “a death sentence” for severely immunocompromised students.

Attorney and district parent Kenneth Behrend filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on behalf of about 1,500 students covered by protections in the American Disabilities Act in an effort to halt the Sunday expiration of the district’s mask mandate.

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Conservative Chesapeake School Board Reverses Decision to Make Masks Optional

The Chesapeake School Board voted five to one on New Year’s Eve to keep masks mandatory for students — a reversal from a December decision to make masks optional after Christmas break. An announcement from the district cited the COVID-19 surge.

“At this meeting, the School Board proposed and approved an amendment to their previous motion from the December 13, 2021 meeting regarding masks for students. Therefore, masks will continue to be required for all
students, staff, and visitors as per the Public Health Order when we return on January 3, 2022. Vaccines and testing for student athletes, however, will remain optional,” Superintendent Jared Cotton wrote.

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School Board Politics Underlie Virginia Beach House Races

Virginia Beach has several competitive House of Delegates races where Republicans hope to make gains that will help power them to a House of Delegates majority.  GOP candidates are focusing on a mix of law-and-order and education policy in a city where school board politics underlie several of the local House races.

In HD 83, Attorney Tim Anderson is challenging Delegate Nancy Guy (D-Virginia Beach), a former school board member. In the past, Anderson has endorsed and legally represented School Board Member Victoria Manning, a member of a conservative minority faction on the school board. Manning herself has pushed for recalls of her fellow school board members, including Vice Chair Kim Melnyk, who is challenging Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) in HD 84. Additionally, 2020 school board candidate Jeffrey Feld is challenging Delegate Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach) in HD 81.

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Virginia Teacher Fired for Refusing to Wear Mask

The Chesterfield County School Board agreed to fire government and history teacher Stephen Roszell for insubordination after he declined to comply with a state-wide mask mandate for teachers. Roszell told The Virginia Star that he would have complied with a local mask mandate from his employer since Virginia is a right-to-work state. However, he sees Governor Ralph Northam’s public health order as an overreach of executive power. He’s also concerned about federal stimulus funds sent to school districts influencing their policy.

“I teach about federalism in history and government, and this is a direct payment essentially from the federal government through the Virginia Department of Education to [Local Education Agencies (LEA)],” Roszell said. “This money is coming directly from the federal government, and localities must follow all the CDC guidelines through 2023.”

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Ohio Gov. DeWine Says He Would Mandate Masks in Schools, Lawmakers Won’t Let Him

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he wants to impose a new mask mandate but feared a fight with the General Assembly after legislation that limited his authority to enact public health orders became law.

DeWine spoke Tuesday about the growing number of COVID-19 cases throughout the state at the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association. That group, made up of the six children’s hospitals, has spent the past two weeks pleading for vaccines and masks in schools.

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Kentucky Lawmakers Override Governor, Ditch School Mask Mandate

Group of young students at table, reading and wearing masks

Kentucky’s Republican legislature overrode the state’s Democratic governor late Thursday and repealed a statewide public school mask mandate.

The move, reported by the Louisville Courier Journal, came on the final day of a special session called by Gov. Andy Beshear. The mask mandate was repealed as cases in the state increased for the 10th straight week, and as over 30% of Kentucky’s new cases Thursday were in people 18 and younger, according to state data.

The legislature last month moved to significantly limit Beshear’s pandemic-related power, an action that was upheld by multiple judges in the state.

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Amistad Project Files Lawsuit to Stop Pennsylvania School Mask Mandate

Alison Beam

The Amistad Project, in conjunction with Pennsylvania Senate President pro tempore Jake Corman (R-Centre) and State Representative Jesse Topper (R-Bedford), filed a lawsuit against actions by Pennsylvania acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam.

In the lawsuit, the organization is challenging a new statewide school mask mandate, arguing the new restriction violates state law and is a broad overreach of governmental power.

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Fairfax County Parent Organizes Protest Against Student Athlete COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Some parents are protesting the Fairfax County Public Schools COVID-19 vaccine mandate for student athletes. On Tuesday afternoon, a group of a little more than 20 parents protested outside the FCPS Gatehouse Administration Center. FCPS parent Missy Pratt began organizing the protest after Braband’s announcement. Pratt said she’s focused on the vaccine mandate, but she’s also opposed to mask mandates.

“‘No vax, no mask, we push back,’ that was our chant all day long at the rally,” Pratt told The Virginia Star

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Studies Point to Varied Effects of Masking

Crowded street market with people wearing masks

New research published by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) Bangladesh, which tracked mask-wearing among 340,000 Bangladeshi adults, indicates mask usage can considerably reduce the spread of symptomatic COVID-19. 

Some medical professionals, however, remain uneasy about mask mandates in schools because of their possible impact on children’s learning and social health.

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Arizona School Officials Pushing Mask Mandate Caught Not Wearing Masks

Some Arizona school officials are in a feud with Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Legislature over implementing mandatory mask policies, but some of those officials have been caught not wearing masks themselves. Arizona Superintendent of Schools Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat, was spotted not wearing one along with others at a baby shower. Not a single person present had a mask on or was social distancing. Amphitheater Public Schools, which mandated masks on August 16, posted a photo of their Communications Director Michelle Valenzuela, posing without a mask on, clearly standing within a couple of feet of the photographer. They deleted the tweet.

Ducey is confident the school mask mandates will not hold up in court. He said earlier in August, “COVID has been with us for well over a year and a half now, and Arizonans are educated about it. If they want to wear masks, they should absolutely do so. It’s an individual choice. No one and no law anywhere in Arizona is stopping anyone from wearing masks. Ultimately, these mandates are toothless, unenforceable and will not hold up in court.”

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Roundup: Fight for Schools Submits Petition to Recall Loudoun School Board Member Beth Barts; Other Virginia School Board Updates

Fight for Schools PAC announced Wednesday that they have collected 158 percent of the signatures necessary to ask a court to recall Loudoun School Board Member Beth Barts.

“For five months, Loudoun County has been at the center of local, state, national, and even international media attention. Much of this is due to the actions of Beth Barts. She has shown a complete inability to comply with the law, her own code of conduct, and the basic decency that accompanies being an elected official in the United States of America,” Fight for Schools Executive Director Ian Prior said in a press release.

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Chesapeake School Board Chooses Not to Pass Transgender Policy

The Chesapeake Public Schools Board declined to even vote on passing a transgender policy in its Monday meeting. After hours of public comment advocating for and against both mask policy and the transgender policy, Member Patricia King’s motion to pass the policy died without being seconded by any other board member.

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Commentary: Leave Our Kids Alone

In Alan Parker’s 1982 film, “Pink Floyd—The Wall,” a young boy’s reality turns into a nightmare. It’s post-war England, and the boy—now in his teens and fatherless—sits in a classroom tuning out his bland math lesson and composing poems instead. The teacher—a pedagogical sadist—mocks the boy, and then proceeds to mete out some good, old-fashioned corporal punishment. The boy winces, and overwhelmed with anxiety begins to see his world as an unbearable nightmare of human oppression.

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Craig County School Board in Virginia Approves Religious, Medical Exemption Forms for Mask Mandates

The Craig County School Board decided Tuesday to provide medical mask mandate exemption forms that don’t require a physician’s signature and religious exemption forms, although the medical exemption form requires an explanation.

“I do not think the physician should have to sign off, no physician is going to sign off on any of these forms,” Vice Chair Gina Smith said. “I think as parents we are responsible for our kids and it should be enough just to have a diagnosis or a medical reason that your child doesn’t need to wear a mask.”

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Biden Commends Phoenix School District That Violated Ban on Mask Requirements

Biden Commends Phoenix School District

President Joe Biden called the head of Phoenix Union High School District after the district implemented mask requirements that may be contrary to state law, praising Superintendent Chad Geston for the move. In a statement, Biden said he told Geston during his Friday phone call that he “did the right thing.” 

The issue is currently under litigation in Maricopa County Superior Court. Numerous state legislators asked Governor Doug Ducey a few days ago to take action against the school districts in violation, and Ducey responded on Tuesday with a directive financially penalizing the districts. They will not receive any of the $163 million that the state got through the American Rescue Plan to boost per-pupil funding. Students in those districts will receive vouchers to attend schools elsewhere.

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American Academy of Pediatrics Claims Masks Have No Negative Effects on Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on Thursday argued in a series of tweets that masking in schools seemingly has no negative effects on children.

The medical organization dismissed parental concern over the issue as nonexistent, pledging to provide “real talk” about children wearing masks.

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Arizona Republican State Legislators Ask Governor to Take Action Regarding School Districts Violating Law on Mask Mandates

Doug Ducey and Jake Hoffman

Twenty-six Republican members of the Arizona Legislature signed onto a letter drafted by Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) asking Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to take four steps of action in regards to several school districts that appear to be violating state law by imposing mask mandates in schools. A high school biology teacher recently filed a lawsuit over the mandate implemented by Phoenix Union High School District. The school districts contend that the law, A.R.S. 15-342.05, doesn’t apply yet since bills do not go into effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, but the bill contains a retroactive clause. 

“It borders on anarchy and destabilizes the very foundation of our society to have local governments effectively refusing to comply with the law. It must not be allowed to stand,” the legislators said. “Any local government that willfully and intentionally flaunts state law must be held accountable.”

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Governor Bill Lee’s Executive Order Last July Contradicts Claims to Sean Hannity That He’s Been Against Masking Kids

Governor Bill Lee claimed that he’s been against masking kids, but his executive order last July contradicts his remarks. Lee made that claim during a special panel interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. Lee was featured alongside fellow Republican Governors Kristi Noem (South Dakota), Ron DeSantis (Florida), Kim Reynolds (Iowa), and Christopher Sununu (New Hampshire). Near the very end of Executive Order No. 55, Lee “strongly encouraged” schools to impose mask mandates.

Local education agencies, schools, and institutions of higher education are strongly encouraged to implement a policy requiring the use of face coverings by students and staff, with appropriate exemptions, and consistent with any policies issued by the Tennessee Department of Education. No policy, local order, or official may prohibit a student, teachers, school employee, or visitor from voluntarily wearing a face covering except to the extent that such face covering presents a safety or security risk. (emphasis added)

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