Judge refuses to dismiss lawsuit over mask-optional law for Va. schools

A federal judge has denied a motion to dismiss a federal court challenge of Virginia’s law that makes masking optional in schools.

The lawsuit challenging the law was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 12 families with immunocompromised children.

The ACLU claims in the lawsuit that children with weakened immune systems would be harmed if the mask-optional law were kept in place. The lawsuit also claims the law violates the rights of students under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The state had argued that the plaintiffs in the case had not demonstrated they had been harmed by the elimination of mask mandates.

“A plaintiff must demonstrate more than just a ‘possibility’ of irreparable harm,” Virginia Solicitor General Andrew Ferguson wrote in court filings.

But U.S. District Judge Norman Moon of Virginia’s Western District denied the motion to dismiss the case. Back in March, Moon issued a temporary injunction that allows the 12 families to seek accommodations at their children’s schools.

The judge did allow the law to stand as the case proceeded.

“We’re glad the case is moving forward on behalf of our plaintiffs and that they will have a chance to get permanent injunctive relief that allows them to seek the accommodations they need to safely got to school,” said Eden Heilman, legal director for the ACLU of Virginia.

WTOP has also contacted Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares’ office for comment.

Moon allowed amicus curiae briefs from the Fairfax County School Board and the Fairfax County Parents Association to be included in the case. Such briefs come from parties not named in a lawsuit who are permitted to provide information for a case to the court.

The school board supported the lawsuit and called the law unconstitutional before it was even passed.

In requesting to be heard in this case, the school board argued: “A broader, more fundamental legal principle is at stake: the responsibility bestowed by the Constitution of Virginia on locally elected school boards to make decisions for the protection of their students’ safety, welfare, and education.”

The Fairfax County Parents Association supported the state’s claims that the law does not violate the ADA.

“The only issue that remains is whether there is a conflict with complying with those laws and the Virginia law providing parents with a fundamental right to make decisions for their children that affect their care, education and upbringing. There is no conflict,” the brief read.

Heilman said the case now moves into the discovery phase.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this story.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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