Governor signs bill ending school mask mandates in Virginia

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, speaks during an interview in his office at the Capitol Tuesday...
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, speaks during an interview in his office at the Capitol Tuesday Feb. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Va. Youngkin was inaugurated one month ago. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)(Steve Helber | AP)
Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 11:08 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2022 at 5:54 AM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed a bill ending school mask mandates into state law Wednesday afternoon. It will go into effect on March 1.

“This is a very, very important day to reestablish that recognition that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions in regards to their children’s education, their upbringing and their care,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin, (R) Virginia.

The measure, sponsored by Republican Henrico State Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, empowers parents to decide about masking wearing inside schools and not local school boards.

“Parents make the decisions for their children. The political entities need to get out. Put the decision, parents are perfectly capable,” said State Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, (R) Henrico.

Earlier in the day, the Virginia House of Delegates approved the bill on a party-line vote after the governor added some amendments. The Virginia Senate approved it late Tuesday.

The Republican governor also added a provision giving school districts until March 1 to develop a plan to comply with the law.

“These amendments don’t make this bill better. They make it worse. They make it more difficult to comply with,” said State Del. Marcus Simon, (D) Fairfax.

House Democrats tried several procedural moves today to tank the legislation but failed. They contend it’s too soon to lift mask mandates inside schools, and the law could make it harder to deal with potential future COVID-19 outbreaks.

“This has been a rush to give the governor a much-needed political win. This is bad policy. Poorly executed in violation of the Constitution of Virginia,” said Del. Simon.

The governor points out the ball got rolling on this with bipartisan support.

“What we saw was Democratic leadership in the senate partner with Senator Dunnavant to pull this bill together,” said Governor Youngkin.

Meanwhile, Richmond Public Schools has had a 100% mask mandate. Superintendent Jason Kamras says the division will follow the new law. Henrico County Public Schools lifted its mask mandate just hours after the governor signed the bill.

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