Gov. Youngkin said that all Virginia parents should have the right to choose whether their children wear masks in school.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has asked a circuit court for permission to join and support a lawsuit filed by Loudon County parents who oppose a local school board’s mask mandate.
According to CNN, Youngkin’s push to join the litigation is the recently-elected Republican governor’s latest attempt to overhaul the same policies championed by his Democratic predecessor, Ralph Northam.
Gov. Youngkin—along with state Attorney General Jason Miyares and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Baow—are also seeking a temporary injunction and temporary restraining order against the Loudon County School Board.
CNN notes that, shortly after taking office, Gov. Youngkin issued an executive order allowing parents and legal guardians to “elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program.”
“We granted parents the options of deciding whether they want their child to wear a mask or not,” Youngkin told WTOP News shortly after he signed the order. “We will use every resource within the governor’s authority to explore what we can do and will do to make sure that parents’ rights are protected.”
Loudon County, situated an hour’s drive from Washington, D.C., has an estimated 80,000 students enrolled in its 97 schools and educational institutions.
Attorney General Jason Miyares justified Youngkin’s moves against mask mandates, saying the governor is using the same executive authority Northam cited in requiring students to wear masks to class.
“Two years into this pandemic, we have much better risk mitigation strategies and vaccines, and we know much more about the efficacy of requiring children to wear masks all day,” said Victoria LaCivita, a spokesperson for Miyares’ office. “Parents know what is best for their children, and we want to empower families to have an opt-out option for face masks. We now respectfully wait for the court’s decision and guidance and will not be commenting further.”
Miyares, adds CNN, also issued a legal opinion last week stating that universities cannot require coronavirus vaccinations as a condition to enroll in or attend in-person courses.
However, Virginia Democrats have pushed back against the Youngkin administration’s recission of mask mandates.
Virginia state Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington County), for instance, told WTOP News that the governor has “no authority at all” to dictate district-by-district mandates and orders.
“We are governed by the Virginia Code,” Hope said. “The Virginia Code states very clearly that school districts should adhere by the CDC’s recommendations.”