VIRGINIA (WDVM) — Seven Virginia school boards filed a lawsuit to challenge the legality of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s (R-Va.) executive order reversing the statewide in-school mask mandate Monday morning, the same day his order took effect.
Alexandria City, Arlington County, City of Richmond, Fairfax County, Falls Church City, Hampton City and Prince William County are all part of the lawsuit challenging the order’s constitutionality.
“The legal action, representing over 350,000 students across the state, defends the right of school boards to enact policy at the local level, including policies that protect the health and well-being of all students and staff,” Fairfax County Public Schools said in a statement Monday morning.
WDVM spoke with Fairfax County School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky about the decision. “We’ve been put in a horrible position. Do we follow our state law? Do we follow do we follow the heath and safety guidance of medical professionals during a pandemic? Or, do we look at an executive order that has overridden state law?,” said Pekarsky.
The statement says the two main goals of the suit are to determine whether the governor’s executive orders can override decisions made by locally-elected school boards and reverse lawfully-adopted statutes without action by the state’s general assembly.
“Without today’s action, school boards are placed in a legally untenable position — faced with an executive order that is in conflict with the constitution and state law. Today’s action is not politically motivated. These seven school divisions would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the governor to ensure the safety and welfare of all students,” said FCPS in a statement.
The lawsuit states the decision is not political. “We are just following CDC guidance,” said Pekarsky.
However, parents like Arlington resident Nathan Brinkman disagree.
“This is yet another politically motivated waste of time and money,” said Brinkman. “I notice they readily acceded to Governor Northam’s executive orders with regard to COVID, just not this governor.”
Pekarsky says the schools will maintain their mask mandate until a verdict has been reached. Attorney General Jason Miyares office released a statement, saying parents and students should follow the advice of their local school districts for the time being.
“An unfortunate side effect of the COVID-19 emergency has been the irreversible harm to our children’s mental health and experience in the classroom. The Attorney General stands by the Governor’s executive order. The General Assembly has given him the power to take appropriate steps to confront this emergency and his determination that parents should make decisions regarding the health, wellbeing and safety of their children was an appropriate use of that power. As we wait for the Supreme Court’s guidance, the Attorney General’s office urges parents to listen to their principals. We have faith in the legal process and will not be commenting further on the pending litigation at this time,“ a statement from Victoria W. LaCivita, director of communications with the Office of the Attorney General, said.
This is a developing story and will be updated.