Mask issue in Va. schools: Youngkin gets new support and gets sued

As Virginia’s new Republican governor faced pushback from some school systems over his executive order that gives families the ability to opt out of school-issued mask mandates, other school systems decided to follow the order and scrap their requirements.

The public school systems in both Spotsylvania and Culpeper chose to make masks optional in school buildings.

Steve Knotts, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, urged his county to do the same Tuesday, despite Fairfax County Public Schools saying that it would not follow the order.

“It’s putting the decision and the authority back with the parent,” said Knotts. “There is nothing to preclude a parent from saying ‘I would prefer my child to wear a mask.'”

“Parents should be able to decide what’s best for their children and not necessarily the state or the school system,” Knotts said.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s order said parents of any child in elementary or secondary schools or a school-based early child care or educational program “may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate.”

In part because of a state law passed last year dealing with classrooms and pandemic policies, school districts in many of the state’s most populous localities have since told parents they planned to keep existing mask mandates in place, at least temporarily.

On Tuesday, a group of parents of children in Chesapeake Public Schools sued the governor and members of his administration in the Supreme Court of Virginia, arguing that the executive order violates state law.

“Petitioners have no adequate remedy at law and no time to spare. They and their children are likely to suffer irreparable harm and damage if this Court declines to grant immediate relief,” they wrote.

Asked for comment on the legal challenge, Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter responded: “We will continue to protect parents’ fundamental right to make decisions with regard to their child’s upbringing, education and care.”

Youngkin’s order is set to take effect on Monday, Jan. 24.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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