Governor Northam says school divisions bucking mask guidelines must comply

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 4:33 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2021 at 6:58 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Legal action is not off the table when it comes to school divisions going against mask guidelines for the return to in-person learning this fall. Some school divisions across Virginia are bucking the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s mask guidance for kids in schools.

The governor’s office says these out-of-line school divisions will get additional clarification shortly and expect compliance.

“I think we’re seeing most localities talking to their lawyers, you know as the governor said they should, and understanding they need to follow the law,” said State Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, 72nd District.

Last week, Governor Ralph Northam did not mandate masks in schools, rather, he relied on a law passed by the General Assembly that he interpreted to say the return to in-person learning must follow CDC guidelines.

That ambiguity is now leading to the debate over masks inside schools.

“I remain optimistic, like the governor, that we will see these localities come along. In the short term, am I disappointed they didn’t do it? Sure,” said VanValkenburg.

At the end of the day, the governor and his allies say this isn’t debatable because it’s the law.

“We see that most localities are following the law and are following the CDC guidelines, and I think we’re going to see more and more localities continue to do that because it’s the right thing to do to make sure kids get a proper education,” said VanValkenburg.

Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office wouldn’t say if legal action is already in the works. Mark Herring’s office relied on a statement saying in part, “Attorney General Herring expects every school district to take any and all appropriate steps to keep their students, staff and faculty safe and healthy.”

Governor’s office full statement:

“SB 1303 was passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support. This isn’t about politics—students learn best when they are in the classroom, and masks help to protect everyone, especially kids who aren’t yet vaccinated. This law will help to keep schools open and ensure the safety of staff, teachers, and students. While the vast majority of school divisions have complied with the law, it’s clear there are a few that need additional clarification. We plan to provide that shortly, and fully expect all school districts will do the right thing.”

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