State Watch

Youngkin’s masks-optional order blocked by judge

A Virginia judge on Friday blocked Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) executive order giving parents the power to decide whether their children wear masks in schools or not.

Virginia Circuit Court Judge Louise M. DiMatteo said in her ruling that the seven school boards seeking injunctive relief from Youngkin’s executive order on masks were likely to succeed on the merits of their case.

Specifically, the Virginia judge wrote that while Youngkin had been given wide authority to address a state emergency, he did not have the authority to overrule decisions made by school boards under a state law requiring them to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“While the General Assembly has granted the Governor significant and sweeping general powers to address an emergency, when confronted with a specific statute addressing the manner in which in-person learning can resume and directs local school boards to follow the guidance of the CDC, ‘the maximum extent practicable,’ it does not follow that the Governor, even in an emergency, can direct School Boards to ignore the General Assembly’s deference to CDC guidance and to abandon their considered determination about what is practicable,” DiMatteo wrote. 

A spokesperson for Youngkin vowed that the ruling would be appealed following the judge’s decision.

“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.

“More voices, including from the scientific and medical community, call into question the efficacy behind a universal mask mandate for children. This is about what’s best for their kid’s health and who can best make that decision.”

The seven school districts that filed the lawsuit, led by Fairfax County Public Schools, argued that a part of the state constitution that reads, “the supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board,” was being violated by Youngkin’s order. 

They also argued that the order violated the state law requiring school boards to follow CDC guidelines, which was signed last year by former Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

Tags Executive Order Glenn Youngkin Glenn Youngkin mask order school mask mandates Virginia
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