Seven Virginia school boards filed suit Monday in Arlington Circuit Court seeking an immediate injunction barring enforcement of Gov. Glenn Youngkin's mask-optional order on the day it was supposed to take effect, The Washington Post reported.
A Republican, Youngkin's order leaves masking decisions to parents, which is against federal health guidance and the masking mandates that most school districts in the state have had during the coronavirus pandemic.
In the complaint by the school boards, led by Fairfax County Public Schools, whose 180,000 students make it the state's largest system, their lawyers write that the governor's executive order contradicts both Virginia's constitution, which states that "the supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board," and a state law passed over the summer that requires school districts in Virginia to follow federal health guidelines to the "maximum extent practicable."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masking inside schools from kindergarten through 12th grade for everyone over 2 years old, regardless of vaccination status.
The seven boards issued a statement Monday that "school divisions need to continue to preserve their authority to protect and serve all students, including our most vulnerable who need these mitigation measures perhaps more than anyone" to keep attending school in person, adding that "without today's action, school boards are placed in a legally untenable position. Today's action is not politically motivated … the lawsuit is not brought out of choice but out of necessity."
Responding to the suit, Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said in a statement on Monday, "We are disappointed that these school boards are ignoring parent's rights. The governor and attorney general are in coordination and are committed to aggressively defending parents' fundamental right to make decisions with regard to their child's upbringing, education, and care, as the legal process plays out."
Almost half of Virginia's approximate 130 school districts have vowed to defy the governor's order, stating that they intended to keep requiring face coverings for students, although in other places, particularly rural and conservative areas, school boards voted to follow Youngkin's order, according to The Washington Post.
Protests took place on Monday in many districts throughout the state, with parents going into schools with their children and declaring to administrators that they had a right to keep their kids unmasked.
Youngkin has declared that he will use every resource to enforce his mandate, and wrote on Twitter over the weekend that "while the legal process continues on the parental opt-out of mask mandates for their children in schools, I urge everyone to love your neighbor, to listen to school principals, and to trust the legal process."
The lawsuit declared that Youngkin's mask-optional order has forced Virginia schools to "face the real and imminent threat of having COVID-19 outbreaks occur at multiple schools, endangering the health of students and staff, and causing those schools, at least temporarily, to be shut down," The Washington Post reported.
Parents in Chesapeake have already sued the governor over his mask-optional order, but the initiators of the second complaint said they also wanted a suit over the governor's efforts to, as they see it, usurp the constitutionally granted authority of school boards to determine school system policy.
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Brian Freeman ✉
Brian Freeman, a Newsmax writer based in Israel, has more than three decades writing and editing about culture and politics for newspapers, online and television.
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