Judge blocks Youngkin’s mask mandate ban in 7 Virginia school districts

An Arlington judge issued an order temporarily blocking Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order regarding mask mandates from being enforced in seven school districts.

Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax County, Falls Church City, Hampton City, Prince William County and Richmond schools can keep their mask mandates in place, according to the temporary injunction issued by Arlington Circuit Judge Louise M. DiMatteo. The judge’s order will remain in place until it is legally resolved.

The order comes after DiMatteo granted the school districts a restraining order against Youngkin’s mask mandate ban Friday, temporarily halting it.

Youngkin’s executive order, which aimed to let parents opt out of school mask mandates, went into effect Jan. 24 and has been the subject of lawsuits from school systems and parents’ groups ever since.

One of those lawsuits came from a group of Chesapeake parents who are fighting Youngkin’s ban on mask mandates. The Virginia Supreme Court dismissed the case Monday. The governor said he is pleased by the dismissal, and emphasized that the issue is not about masking but parents’ choice.

“We will continue to protect the rights of parents to make decisions regarding their child’s health, education, upbringing, and care. To be clear, this is not about pro-mask vs. anti-mask, but rather parents making decisions about what’s best for their child’s health,” Youngkin said in a statement.

The Loudoun County School Board, which voted to uphold the county’s mask mandate, is being challenged by three families accusing the board of violating the governor’s executive order. Youngkin and other members of his administration have asked to join the families’ suit.

Youngkin is also facing a lawsuit by some parents of Virginia children with disabilities.

“The governor will never stop fighting for parents’ ability to choose what is best for their children. The governor often said that this is not a pro-mask or anti-mask debate. It’s about parents knowing what’s best for their child’s health, and opting-out should there be a mask mandate,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement, adding that governor’s office will appeal Tuesday’s decision.

Also on Tuesday, the Virginia state Senate voted to advance a law that would prevent local school boards from implementing a mask requirement in schools. It will still require another vote in the Senate and a vote in the House of Delegates before heading to Youngkin’s desk. Youngkin said in a statement that he would sign the bill.

In response to DiMatteo’s ruling, a Fairfax County schools spokesperson said that any rollback of layered prevention measures needs to be inline with community transmission data and health and scientific recommendations.

“Fairfax County is still in high community transmission. Moreover, neither the CDC nor any of our local health advisors have made changes to their recommendation of universal masking,” a Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson said.

Fairfax County schools also point to the needs of students and staff with underlying medical issues.

“More than anything else, these mitigation measures allow them to safely remain in our schools and access the same in-person instruction as their peers,” Fairfax County schools said.

WTOP’s Scott Gelman and Rick Massimo contributed to this report. 

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Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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