ACLU argues Va. governor’s order to make masks optional compromises students’ rights

Immunocompromised kids have a right to stay safe at school. That’s the argument in a new filing asking a federal judge to block Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s order to lose masks in the classroom, claiming it violates students’ civil rights.

The ACLU of Virginia is asking a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order against the governor’s order to lift the mask mandate, arguing it keeps schools from complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Two of the immunocompromised kids behind the ACLU’s federal lawsuit live in Loudoun and Fairfax counties and are hoping for a ruling in their favor.

“Our clients, who all wear masks regularly, need other people around them to wear masks as well in order to keep them protected,” said Kaitlin Banner, who is on the legal team guiding the ACLU of Virginia.

The request for a preliminary injunction comes a week after the ACLU of Virginia filed its complaint in federal court challenging Youngkin’s order.

Banner clarifies there are two other lawsuits filed against the governor, which claim state law doesn’t allow him to set practices for school districts.

“What our lawsuit is looking at, which is different from those, is does the governor’s order prevent school districts from complying with federal civil rights laws; prevent them from making reasonable accommodations for kids with disabilities,” Banner said.

As the omicron variant continues to spread, and therefore remains a threat to those with weakened immune systems, Banner said if enforced, the Youngkin’s order will leave some Virginia families with a choice they shouldn’t have to make.

“So parents and students are really fearful that they’re going to have to choose between their children’s health and safety, or they’re going to have to choose between their child’s education,” Banner said.

The preliminary injunction was filed in the Western District of Virginia court on Thursday. There was no time frame when a judge was expected to respond to the filing.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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