State Watch

Youngkin signs executive orders banning critical race theory, lifting mask mandate in Virginia public schools

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks to supporters and potential voters during a meet and greet at Manassas Park Community Center in Manassas, Va., on Saturday, October 30, 2021.
Greg Nash

Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed 11 executive orders on his first day in office, including one lifting a mask mandate in public schools and another banning the teaching of critical race theory, both issues Youngkin campaigned on.

“Executive Order Number One delivers on his Day One promise to restore excellence in education by ending the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, in public education,” a press release from Youngkin’s office read.

“Executive Order Number Two delivers on his Day One promise to empower Virginia parents in their children’s education and upbringing by allowing parents to make decisions on whether their child wears a mask in school,” the release continued.

The governor also signed an executive order announcing the state was “open for business”; two orders establishing a state effort to combat anti-semitism and human trafficking, respectively, and another promising to investigate an alleged sexual assault in a Loudoun County high school, among others.

In a statement on the executive orders, Youngkin said, “The work is only beginning.”

“The important steps we are taking today begins the work of restoring excellence in education, making our communities safer, opening Virginia for business and reinvigorating job growth, and making government work for the people, and not the other way around,” he said.

The repeal of the mask mandate could be challenged in court on the argument that it contradicts a law passed by the state’s General Assembly requiring schools to take measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, ABC 8News noted earlier this week.

Former Gov. Ralph Northam (D) noted that the law effectively made the mask mandate a requirement when he first implemented it in August, the outlet reported.

Several other states have also banned the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), a graduate-level concept positing that racism is embedded in U.S. history, laws and institutions and seeking to promote equity. In his executive order, Youngkin called CRT “political indoctrination.”

“This denies our students the opportunity to gain important facts, core knowledge, formulate their own opinions, and to think for themselves,” the order reads. “Our children deserve far better from their education than to be told what to think.”

Youngkin’s order directs the superintendent of public instruction to review school policies and teachings that are “inherently divisive” and ban them from being taught, among other measures.

The governor also announced an executive order that terminates the current members of the state’s Parole Board in favor of his new appointees. Youngkin said in the order that the previous board members had released incarcerated individuals who had recently been denied or deemed ineligible for parole, which he said raises “questions about the lawfulness of the abrupt reversals of these decisions.”

Tags Critical race theory executive orders Glenn Youngkin mask mandates Virginia

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