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Judge temporarily blocks Youngkin’s mask order, ruling in favor of 7 school districts

The judge granted the temporary order in favor of seven school boards, including Richmond...
The judge granted the temporary order in favor of seven school boards, including Richmond Public Schools, that wanted Youngkin’s order blocked.(Source;NBC12 | NBC12)
Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 3:36 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 4, 2022 at 11:28 PM EST
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ARLINGTON, Va. (WWBT) - A judge has granted a temporary restraining order on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order allowing parents to opt-out of universal masking for their children in schools, NBC Washington reports.

The judge granted the temporary order in favor of seven school boards, including Richmond Public Schools, that wanted Youngkin’s order blocked.

Lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office wanted the judge to block school districts from requiring universal masking.

“The governor will never stop fighting for parents’ ability to choose what is best for their children. 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. 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. We are going to appeal, this is just the first step in the judicial process,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said.

NBC Washington reports the judge made it clear that her decision is not a ruling about who is right and wrong on mask policy, but instead, she says it’s about determining who has the authority to decide masking rules for school districts.

The judge wrote that she found Youngkin’s executive order, which was issued through his emergency powers, cannot override school division policy, according to NBC Washington.

“Read the room Governor – today’s ruling is a huge win for parents across Virginia, and a major step in ensuring the safety of their children will be protected at school. Gov. Youngkin has been using Virginia’s children as political pawns in his game to appease the far-right instead of prioritizing their health and safety first. And to threaten to withhold funding for our school divisions over this, which our Republican leadership has done multiple times, just takes this too far. Gov. Youngkin says he stands with parents, but I’m wondering which ones. It’s clear he doesn’t stand with the majority of Virginia parents, and thankfully today’s ruling will protect our children and parents alike,” Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker said.

Chesterfield parent Dominique Chatters agrees with the ruling but believes it also needs to go further beyond the seven districts named in the suit.

“There’s a part in that ruling that I wanted to read, and it says, ‘The single issue before the court is whether the Governor, via his emergency powers, can override the decisions of the local school boards delegated to them by SB-1303. On this pivotal point, the court concludes that the governor cannot,” Chatters read. “So even though Chesterfield County schools weren’t part of the seven districts for that lawsuit, that except the document itself tells us what we need to know. That the governor overreached, and that we’re supposed to be obeying SB-1303, which says universal masking in public schools.”

Chatters says Chesterfield County Public Schools recently procured KN95 and N95 masks for teachers and students before the board voted against universal masking in late January. According to the CCPS website, the district has access to more than 40,000 KN95 masks, which the CDC says is most effective. With this in mind, Chatters thinks it should be easy to make the school board switch back to a universal mask policy.

“If you’re going to attend public schools, then you have to be concerned about the entire community, and we should be doing what’s best for everyone, and not just a small microcosm of the community,” Chatters said.

Though unlikely the Chesterfield School Board will vote again to upend its decision to give parents a choice to mask their kids in school, Chatters believes it would be in the district’s best interest to avoid possible future legal battles now that there is a precedent for Governor Yougnkin’s executive order being successfully challenged in court.

“We already have parents that are contacting the ACLU, the NAACP and other attorneys that are willing to take their cases now that there is a precedent,” Chatters said. “I’m not sure if the school board wants to handle that battle.”

Read the judge’s letter below:

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