Seven Virginia school districts to challenge Youngkin’s mask mandate ban

Then-Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during his election night at a hotel in Chantilly, Virginia on November 3, 2021. (Elisabeth Frantz/Reuters)

As one of his first agenda items upon taking office on Monday, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law a mask mandate ban for public schools in the state. Seven school districts announced they will defy the order and maintain mask requirements in buildings and on school buses.

Prince Williams, Richmond, Arlington, Henrico, Alexandria, Fredericksburg and Manassas Public Schools all plan to continue mandating mask-wearing on their premises for students, staff and faculty, regardless of vaccination status despite COVID-19. Youngkin. directive.

In keeping with his campaign promise to empower parents as key players in Virginia’s public education system, Youngkin’s executive order was titled “Reaffirm Parents’ Rights in Education, Nurturing, and Health Care.” their children”. Similar to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ mask mandate ban, Youngkin’s is not banning masks in schools, but rather giving parents the option to choose whether their child will wear one, given that some increasingly view it as a barrier to learning and academic development.

Most of the seven non-compliant districts cited state law SB1303 as permission to maintain their masking policies in schools. The relevant provision states that schools shall “provide such in-person instruction in a manner that respects, to the extent possible, all currently applicable mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that were provided by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although school districts can cite SB1303 as justification, the legislation does not explicitly mention masks. Youngkin did not say whether he plans to go through the legislative process, given a GOP-dominated state House and a narrowly Democratic-dominated state Senate, to ban mask mandates.

“The HCPS school board and administration respects that parents make decisions for their families; however, division leaders must make decisions for the collective safety of nearly 49,000 students and 10,000 employees and fulfill our responsibility to provide in-person instruction,” Henrico County Public Schools said in a statement. declaration. HCPS noted that its school board unanimously approved the mask requirements even before former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam imposed the statewide emergency health order.

“Universal mask use has proven effective in keeping COVID-19 transmission rates low in our schools and ensuring schools remain safe and open,” Fredericksburg City Public Schools claims. Mounting evidence, including an extensive study from the UK, suggests that mask mandates do not have a statistically significant impact on Covid transmission.

Asked for evidence to support their claim that mask mandates are effective in reducing the spread of Covid, an Arlington Public School District spokesperson inadvertently sent an email to a daily call reporter an answer that was intended for another school official.

“FYI, I recommend not responding to the Daily Caller. It won’t get us anywhere,” the spokesperson wrote. A subsequent email returned to the CDC guidelines.

Some counties, like Prince William, suggested they might adopt Youngkin’s ordinance pending both its review and anticipated revised guidelines from the Virginia Department of Education.

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