Virginia Senate passes measure to give parents choice to mask kids in school

FILE: Masks in school
FILE: Masks in school(WHSV)
Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 3:20 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2022 at 4:11 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Two bills advanced Wednesday in the Virginia Statehouse: Senate Bill 739 and House Bill 1272.

“This is a big day for parents and for kids and for getting us back to normal,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin, (R) Virginia.

Both proposed bills put limits on virtual learning for the upcoming fall school year, but also have lines in them that would allow parents to opt-out of mask usage for their children, and they don’t have to provide a reason.

“I am concerned in general that our children have become a political football, and regardless of who is doing it, it concerns me. It bothers me,” said State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, (D) 9th District.

Some Democrats trying to block the measures say the move takes away power from school boards.

“I opposed the bill because it removes the supervision of the schools and really keeping the decisions on how to keep our children safe, and mitigated COVID out of the hands of our local school divisions,” said State Sen. McClellan.

But a handful of Democrats and Republicans, including the governor, disagree, saying it’s time to let parents decide.

“I’m really glad to see it come together on a bipartisan basis to reflect Virginians’ desire to allow parents to make a choice,” said Youngkin.

One of those Democrats breaking from the ranks and voting with Republicans is State Senator Joe Morrissey.

“The mask mandate - I see both sides of it, but from my own perspective, there’s efficacy in wearing the mask; my kids will continue to do it, but I’m not going to tell such and such a parent you can’t do that,” said State Sen. Joe Morrissey, (D) 16th District.

If the bills pass, technically it wouldn’t go into effect until July first. However, the governor can add an emergency clause to the bill, which would make it effective well before then.

“So the House has to do their work now, and we’re hoping we can get this done in the next couple of weeks,” said Governor Youngkin.

The Virginia Senate passed a measure to give parents the option to mask their children in schools. The vote was 21-17. It advances to the Virginia House of Delegates. House committee passed a similar bill earlier on Wednesday. The measure will now have to go to the full House for a vote.

In Richmond, school superintendent Jason Kamras is advocating for the measures to fail.

The actions by lawmakers are separate from the legal battles on masks still unfolding.

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