Virginia Court Issues Narrow Temporary Injunction in Favor of 12 Parents Who Sued over School Mask Mandate Opt-Out

U.S. District Court, Western District of Virginia Judge Norman Moon has issued a temporary injunction in a lawsuit by 12 parents of children at high risk due to COVID-19, blocking enforcement of Virginia’s new law and executive order requiring school mask mandate opt-outs. The injunction is narrowly focused on the plaintiffs, and the order is careful to clarify that both the executive order and the law remain in effect in Virginia.

E.O. 2 and S.B. 739 are the law in Virginia and they remain in force, affording parents the choice whether their children should wear masks to school, notwithstanding any school rule that would require students to wear masks.
The Court’s decision and injunction today directly impact only the 12 Plaintiffs in this case. The Court enjoins Defendants from enforcing E.O. 2 and S.B. 739 only as against these Plaintiffs in their ability to ask for (not definitely to receive) from their schools some amount of masking as a reasonable modification,” Moon wrote in the order issued Wednesday.

The preliminary injunction is in effect to prevent potential harm while the case continues. One requirement to issue a preliminary injunction includes a finding that the plaintiffs, in this case the 12 parents, are likely to succeed in their lawsuit. Moon concluded that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed.

“E.O. 2 and S.B. 739, by their terms, admit no exceptions to optional masking in Virginia’s schools, and Defendants take the position that any requirements that students wear masks are by their nature unreasonable. To be sure, had Plaintiffs sought universal required masking in schools of an indefinite duration to accommodate their disabilities, Plaintiffs would have failed to demonstrate a clear showing they are likely to succeed on the merits,” he wrote. “However, Plaintiffs have not asked for such sweeping relief. Yet Defendants’ view is that these laws not only forbid universal masking, but any required mask-wearing in public schools, even if limited in time, scope, or manner.”

The Office of the Attorney General, representing the defendants, and the ACLU of Virginia (ACLUVA), representing the plaintiffs, both released statements about the order.

“While the injunction is limited to these 12 students, it is clearly a blueprint for any parent of a student with disabilities to assure their school district can make accommodations when the safety of their children is at stake and that state law cannot stand in the way,” ACLUVA said in a press release.

Attorney General Jason Miyares said in a Wednesday evening press release, “Today’s ruling affirms that Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order 2 and Senate Bill 739 is the law of Virginia and parents have the right to make choices for their children.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected]

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