Parents Sue Virginia Governor Over Executive Order Banning Local Mask Mandates

A group of Virginia parents are suing Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), was sued by a group of parents in Virginia over an executive order that effectively ended masking rules that certain school districts had put in place to limit the spread COVID-19.

Thirteen parents in the Chesapeake Public school District filed a lawsuit this week, alleging that Youngkin’s order — referred to as Executive Order Number Two — is unlawful, and infringes upon the district’s right to protect children and their families.

Youngkin signed the executive order on his first day in officeThis was earlier in the month. Within the order, Youngkin says that mask mandates are “ineffective and impractical” — a claim that has been debunked by several studies demonstrating the effectiveness of masks in reducing the spread of the virus. The order stipulates that any masking directive issued by a K-12 school in Virginia must be voluntary for students and teachers.

The parents’ lawsuit states that Youngkin “lacks the authority” to issue an executive order forbidding local school districts from implementing masking rules, noting that, under state law, governors cannot undo previous laws through executive order alone.

A previous state law, which passed under Youngkin’s predecessor, mandated that schools stay open five days per week, and added that schools have a responsibility to adhere to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as much as possible. According to the CDC, currently, students and staff should wear masks while inside buildings.

The lawsuit alleges that Youngkin cannot unilaterally undo that law through executive order, citing Article I Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia, which states that the “power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.”

The lawsuit also states that in matters relating education, the governor does not have the authority to make such decisions on his own.

Nowhere in the state constitution “is the Governor of Virginia vested with the type of authority that would be required to lawfully enact Executive Order Number Two and impose the requirements stated therein,” the lawsuit says.

Youngkin’s order is set to take effect on Monday, but parents are asking the court to take immediate action and to suspend the executive order until the matter is resolved.

Youngkin’s action subverts the will of a majority of state residents. According to a Washington Post/Schar School poll from SeptemberThe majority of Virginians support mask mandates for teachers, students, and staff. Only 28 percent opposed the idea.

National support for mask mandates to limit the spread of coronavirus is high. in a recent Economist/YouGov poll, 57 percent of respondents said they still believed school districts “should be allowed to mandate masks for their students.”