Virginia school districts sue Youngkin over order giving parents choice on COVID-19 masks in class

Virginia school districts sue Youngkin over order giving parents choice on COVID-19 masks in class

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Seven school districts in Virginia announced Monday morning that they are suing Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin over his executive order requiring that parents have a choice to opt their children out of public school mask mandates. 

“This legal action centers on fundamental questions about the framework of public education in Virginia, as set out in the Virginia Constitution and by the General Assembly,” the school boards said in a press release Monday. 

“Today’s action is not politically motivated,” the school boards also said. “These seven school divisions would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the governor to ensure the safety and welfare of all students.”

Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin greets supporters at a reception Friday Jan. 14, 2022, in Richmond, Va. Youngkin was sworn in the month. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin greets supporters at a reception Friday Jan. 14, 2022, in Richmond, Va. Youngkin was sworn in the month. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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The school boards behind the suit are in Alexandria City, Arlington County, Richmond, Fairfax County, Falls Church, Hampton City, and Prince William County. They announced the suit the morning Youngkin’s order giving parents choice on face masks went into effect. 

The move amounts to the latest salvo in a simmering political battle over schools’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many parents, vocally supported by Republican politicians, have railed against school officials over the effects mask-wearing and remote schooling had on their children – who are among the least at risk from the coronavirus. Teachers unions and school boards, meanwhile, have emphasized protecting teachers and staff from infection. 

Masked students wait to be taken to their classrooms at Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School, Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in Chula Vista, Calif. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

Masked students wait to be taken to their classrooms at Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School, Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in Chula Vista, Calif. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File) (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

That issue, along with complaints about “critical race theory” being used in schools, largely animated the Nov. 2021 governor’s race in which the Republican Youngkin pulled off a major upset against Democrat Terry McAuliffe. 

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Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for the Youngkin promised that the newly-elected state executive branch will fight the lawsuit. 

“We are disappointed that these school boards are acting counter to parent’s rights,” she said. “The governor and attorney general are in coordination and are committed to aggressively defending parents’ fundamental right to make decisions with regard to their child’s upbringing, education and care, as the legal process plays out.”

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.

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