Virginia Governor, AG, School Chief Side With Loudoun County Parents in School Mask Mandate Lawsuit

By Bill Pan
Bill Pan
Bill Pan
Bill Pan is a reporter for The Epoch Times.
February 3, 2022Updated: February 4, 2022

Virginia’s governor, attorney general, and the superintendent of public instruction have asked to join a lawsuit on behalf of parents fighting to opt their children out of mask mandates at school.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by three families against Loudoun County Public Schools, one of Virginia’s public school districts that insist on requiring students to wear a mask in school buildings in defiance of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s order.

Just hours after his inauguration on Jan. 15, Youngkin signed an executive order to make masks optional in schools across the state. But the Loudoun County School Board voted to support Superintendent Scott Ziegler’s decision to keep the mask requirements in place, citing COVID-19 concerns.

The suing parents argued in the complaint that the decision is neither rational nor scientific, noting that many adults, who are at higher risks from COVID-19, have already returned to their pre-pandemic lives.

“The board continues to demand that [students] wear restrictive facemasks for up to seven or eight hours a day—imposing physical, psychological, and developmental consequences that could be severe,” the complaint reads. “Virginians are currently free to eat at restaurants, stroll shopping malls, go bowling, watch the NFL playoffs at a local tartan, and engage in innumerable other indoor activities—all without wearing masks. Yet children in Loudoun County’s public schools remain trapped in 2020-era pandemic policies that are increasingly difficult to justify.”

On top of that, the parents argued that the school district has violated Virginia state law, which guarantees a “fundamental right” for a parent to “make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.”

In an announcement on Wednesday, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said he has joined Gov. Youngkin and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow to file a motion to be part of the lawsuit on the parents’ side.

“After nearly two years in this pandemic, we have better risk mitigation strategies and vaccines, and we know much more about the efficacy of requiring children to wear masks all day,” the announcement reads. “Parents know what is best for their children and should be able to decide if their children wear a mask for eight hours a day.”

Youngkin’s executive order also faces legal challenges from other school boards, who argue that the mask-optional policy is in violation of a law passed during the Ralph Northam administration.

SB 1303, signed into law by Northam last year, requires that school districts provide full-time in-person instruction and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance “to the maximum extent practicable.” The CDC still recommends universal indoor masking in schools.

Interestingly, the Loudoun County parents also cited SB 1303 as part of the legal basis of their challenge against universal mask mandates, since their children have been denied in-person instruction for not wearing masks.

In messages sent to parents, schools in the Loudoun County school system warned that refusal to wear a mask in school will result in immediate suspension. Any students “who willfully continue to refuse to follow COVID mitigation measures as required by Loudoun County Public Schools will be suspended from school” for “disobedience” and “defiance,” according to the letters reviewed by The Epoch Times.

Terri Wu of The Epoch Times contributed to this report.