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 twelve 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.
RICHMOND, Virginia – Governor Glenn Youngkin signed a school mask-optional bill into law from the steps of the capitol on Wednesday afternoon, hours after the House of Delegates approved his amendments adding an emergency clause and a March 1 effective date.
“Today, we are reestablishing, restoring power back from parents. We are also reestablishing our expectations that we will get back to normal, and this is the path, this is the path. So thank you all for coming. And now, we’re going to do a little work,” Youngkin told the crowd before signing the bill.
The Senate has approved Governor Glenn Youngkin’s amendments to the recently passed school mask-optional bill. The amendments, which an aide said Youngkin sent to the Senate on Monday evening, include clauses making the bill take effect on March 1.
“As you can probably tell from my remarks, I would like this to take effect yesterday, but that’s not going to happen. And I do believe that we’re going to need a transition time for some of our Northern Virginia school districts and probably elsewhere in the state,” co-sponsor Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) said on the Senate floor on Tuesday evening.
The House of Delegates passed SB 739, which will require schools to make masks optional. After Republicans were surprised by bipartisan votes in the Senate last week to amend the bill to include the mask clause and to pass the bill, Republicans hustled the bill through the necessary House committee hearing and through three required floor sessions, including a two-minute-long pro-forma session on Sunday. By 1 p.m. on Monday, Republicans had already delivered the bill to Governor Glenn Youngkin, who has committed to adding an emergency clause to make it take effect immediately.
After Youngkin adds the clause, both chambers can pass the bill and emergency clause with simple majority votes, setting up the bill to be law and in effect potentially by the end of the week, House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) said on The John Fredericks Show Monday morning.
“Once we adopt his [Youngkin’s] amendments, he’s already signed it and sent it back, it’ll be the law, and we can put this behind us,” Kilgore told The Virginia Star’s publisher, John Fredericks.
RICHMOND, Virginia – The House Education Committee voted to advance school mask-optional language in a special meeting Friday; Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) SB 739 was the only bill on the agenda.
As introduced in the Senate, Dunnavant’s original bill focused on in-person learning, but earlier this week Senator Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax City) moved to amend the bill to include the masking clause; that vote got broad support from both sides of the aisle. A later vote to pass the amended bill only had two Democrats supporting it, but that was enough to pass out of the Democrat-controlled Senate. On Wednesday, Delegate Amanda Batten (R-York) said that the sudden change surprised Republicans.
The Virginia Senate passed a bill that will allow parents to opt their children out of wearing masks at school. Democratic Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Lynwood Lewis Jr. (D-Accomack) joined with Republicans to pass SB 739 after the Senate debated the bill for over an hour on Wednesday.
Bill sponsor Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), an OB/GYN, said during debate, “Two years into this pandemic, keeping unproven measures in place is no longer justifiable. We must evolve; science doesn’t stand still. We did masks and boxes and other things because we thought maybe they might help but they have not proven to do so. I will say further that you have before you a conflict between two constitutional priorities in Virginia. One is that school boards get to decide policy for their districts. But the other is that we are a parental rights state. You’re going to have to choose which authority, ceded by the Constitution, you’re going to stand by today.”
Virginia’s Democrat-controlled Senate is suddenly about to pass a bill allowing parents to opt their children out of wearing masks. In Tuesday’s session, Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) amended Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) in-person learning bill to include the mask-opt-out clause – and 10 out of 21 Democrats voted with Republicans to approve the change, setting up the bill for final passage on Wednesday.
Despite vocal Democrats and some urban school boards pushing back against Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order requiring a school mask mandate opt-out, Petersen has been calling for a masking off-ramp. On Monday, he sent a letter to several northern Virginia schools warning of his plans to introduce legislation to that effect. He argued that mask-wearing is a political decision.