Virginia’s GOP governor wants to join parents’ lawsuit against school mask mandates

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is asking a circuit court for one of the state’s most populous counties to allow him to join in a lawsuit filed by a group of parents who oppose their local school board’s mask mandate.

It’s the latest effort by the recently inaugurated Republican governor to roll back school Covid-prevention measures championed by state Democrats, including Youngkin’s predecessor, Ralph Northam.

Youngkin, Attorney General Jason Miyares and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow are also seeking a temporary injunction and a temporary restraining order against the Loudoun County School Board, court documents filed on Wednesday show.

Upon taking office last month, Youngkin, who campaigned heavily on what he characterized as restoring parents’ influence in public education, issued an executive order that allowed parents and guardians to “elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program.” Northam had previously issued a public health emergency order mandating masks in schools.

Loudoun County is located about an hour from Washington, DC, and has about 80,000 students enrolled in its 97 schools and educational centers, according to its website.

The school board declined to comment on the case when asked by CNN, citing the pending litigation.

Youngkin’s order went into effect on January 24 and has already been met with three lawsuits.

Legal hearings for one of those lawsuits, which was filed by seven Virginia school boards with the Circuit Court for the County of Arlington, began earlier this week and challenges the constitutionality of Youngkin’s executive order.

The attorney general’s office said Youngkin is using the same executive powers that Northam did.

“Two years into 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,” spokesperson Victoria LaCivita said. “Parents know what is best for their children, and we want to empower families to have an opt-out option for face masks. We now respectfully wait for the court’s decision and guidance and will not be commenting further.”

Youngkin’s administration has challenged Northam’s previous mandates in other areas of education as well.

Miyares issued a legal opinion last week saying universities cannot require the Covid-19 vaccine for students to attend in-person or enroll, prompting Virginia’s largest public universities to drop their Covid-19 vaccination requirements earlier this week.

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