Schools, state lawmakers battle over legality of Governor Youngkin’s mask policy

Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 2:53 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 17, 2022 at 3:04 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Over the weekend, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed executive order two, which says parents of children in elementary and secondary school can elect for their child not to wear a mask, and they don’t have to provide a reason why.

“And to be clear, this spirit of Virginia is not a spirit that is rested in government telling us what is best for us, but rather reflecting the will of the people,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin, (R) Virginia.

But now, the debate is growing over state law and what the governor can or can’t do about masks in schools.

“I suggest the governor read the entire state constitution that he swore to support, and understand that the General Assembly is going to remind him when he oversteps that authority,” said State Senator Jennifer McClellan, (D) 9th District.

The governor is relying on a state law from 2013 that says a parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the child’s upbringing, education, and care.

State Democrats point out another law passed in 2021, requiring schools to follow CDC guidance, which currently recommends universal mask-wearing in schools.

“I don’t like wearing a mask. I can’t wait for that day to be over. I think that’s how a lot of people feel, but I think a lot of people also want their kids in school,” said State Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg, (D) 72nd District.

School districts across the state are now debating what to do next, either keep the mask policy or ditch it. Richmond Public School Superintendent Jason Kamras says they will maintain a 100% mask policy.

“We read that as giving us clear authority, really a mandate to maintain our policies around masks, and so that’s what we’re going to do,” said Jason Kamras, Richmond Public Schools Superintendent.

The governor said they would protect a parent’s right on this issue.

“The governor will consider all options available and all tools at his disposal to ensure parents can make decisions about their children’s upbringing, education, and care,” Youngkin’s spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said.

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