Not long after he was sworn in as Virginia’s 74th governor, Glenn Youngkin wasted little time keeping promises he made on the campaign trail, issuing nine executive orders addressing a range of issues.
The second of those orders specified that parents have the right to exempt their kids from their school system’s mask mandate.
Some school systems are already saying they will defy his order and stick with their rules.
On Monday, Fredericksburg City Public Schools indicated it, too, would continue with its policy. “The CDC and the Virginia Department of Health continue to recommend using masks in schools as a layered approach to mitigation,” the system said in a statement Monday.
Manassas City Public Schools also vowed Monday to leave the mask policy for students, staff and visitors in place in alignment with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meantime, Loudoun County Public Schools announced that the district’s mask mandate will remain in place at least through Jan. 24, which is when Youngkin’s executive order takes effect. In a statement Monday, school officials said they would be reviewing the updated state guidance before making public their plans on Wednesday.
The superintendent of Prince William County County Public Schools, LaTanya McDade, said Prince William County’s masking policies and other health precautions would remain unchanged, but they, too, will be reviewing both Youngkin’s order and anticipated guidance from Virginia’s Department of Education.
“Any changes to our mitigation strategies will be made thoughtfully and with the health and safety of students and staff as our priority,” McDade said in a statement. “Any decision to remove a mitigation layer must take into consideration our ability to continue in-person instruction.”
While Executive Order No. 2 fulfills one of Youngkin’s promises, it sets up yet another legal fight, said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington.
“Like any contentious issue in American politics, this is going to end up in a courtroom,” Farnsworth said.
“It’s not clear exactly what authority that the governor has in these areas,” he told WTOP’s Debra Feinstein and Shayna Estulin. “We are really in an unprecedented environment here with COVID, and so that’s why these decisions will end up in front of the courts, and the ultimate decision will be made by judges.”
Listen to their full interview with Farnsworth below.