Some parents of Virginia children with disabilities are suing Gov. Glenn Youngkin over his ban of school mask mandates.
The ACLU of Virginia, one of several groups representing the parents, said in a statement Tuesday that the children involved have conditions including cancer, cystic fibrosis, moderate-to-severe asthma, Down syndrome, lung conditions and weakened immune systems.
The suit claims that the governor’s ban on mask requirements in schools leaves the children vulnerable to serious illness if they contract COVID-19, and in effect violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
“Children with serious medical conditions need to feel safe at school,” Colleen Miller, executive director of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia, said in the statement. “Mask mandates allow them to access the educational services to which they are entitled.”
Youngkin’s executive order “shows a reckless disregard for students with disabilities across Virginia,” said Kaitlin Banner, the deputy legal director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. “The Order prevents schools from taking reasonable steps to make sure their students can go to school and enjoy the same educational experiences as their friends.”
“The governor is preventing some of the state’s most vulnerable children from returning to, or remaining in, public schools,” added Eden Heilman, the ACLU of Virginia’s legal director.
The ban on mandates was one of a passel of orders Youngkin issued on his first day in office, Jan. 15. Since then, the controversy has dominated his tenure, with seven school systems and several parent groups suing to stop it, as well as multiple systems ignoring the order.
It has also had an opposite effect as three parents filed a separate suit against the Loudoun County School Board for ignoring Younkin’s order.
Youngkin, writing in The Washington Post last month, tried to redefine the word “mandate,” saying he hadn’t banned mandates but simply allowed parents not to follow them if they didn’t want to.
WTOP has asked Youngkin’s office for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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