Virginia School Boards Sue Gov. Youngkin Over Optional-Mask Order

The Republican governor has issued an order allowing the parents of public-school students to choose whether their children wear masks at school.

The boards of seven school districts in Virginia are suing the newly seated Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) over his order that effectively lifts mask mandates for students in the state’s public schools.

The school boards — including that of Fairfax County, the state’s biggest school district — filed a lawsuit against Youngkin Monday, challenging the governor’s ability to “unilaterally infringe upon” the decisions of local school districts to require masking for student and staff safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The suit, filed in the Arlington County Circuit Court, also contends that Youngkin cannot overrule a state Senate bill that requires Virginia’s local school boards to follow the health and safety guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they provide in-person instruction.

The CDC’s guidance recommends “universal indoor masking by all” students, staff, teachers and visitors to K-12 schools, “regardless of vaccination status.”

On Youngkin’s first day in office, Jan. 15, he issued an executive order stating that any parent can “elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate” in schools, and that they do not have to “provide a reason or make any certification” to do so.

In response to the lawsuit, Youngkin’s spokesperson Macaulay Porter said the governor’s office is “disappointed that these school boards are ignoring parents’ rights,” and plans on “aggressively defending” its position “as the legal process plays out.”

Coronavirus cases nationwide remain near a record peak as the omicron variant spreads. Even as cases have started to drop from their highest levels in recent days, on average more than 2,000 people in the U.S. are still dying from the virus each day.

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