Several Virginia public schools were quick to push back against Glenn Youngkin’s executive order issued on Saturday allowing parents to opt out of school mask mandates for their children.
Not long after Glenn Youngkin was sworn in as Virginia’s 74th governor, he signed nine executive orders, Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. One of those orders gave parents the option to keep their child maskless in public school, despite any school-instituted mask mandates.
Over the weekend, several school systems including Richmond, Henrico, and Arlington responded that they would still enforce mask mandates for all students and staff.
Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras tweeted Saturday afternoon that “@RPS_Schools will maintain its 100% mask mandate for students, staff, and visitors.”
Henrico County Public Schools was also sure to send a clear message about its decision to keep a mask mandate for all: “The HCPS school board and administration respect that parents make decisions for their families; however, division leaders must make decisions for the collective safety of nearly 49,000 students and 10,000 employees and fulfill our responsibility to provide in-person instruction.”
As a parent in Arlington County, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki weighed in on Youngkin’s executive order on Twitter.
“Hi there. Arlington county parent here (don’t believe you are @GlennYoungkin but correct me if I am wrong),” wrote Psaki. “Thank you to @APSVirginia for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant.”
The question is, how will the Youngkin administration handle school defiance?
According to Carl Tobias, a law professor from the University of Richmond, anyone who challenges the governor’s order will likely have the fight taken “to the courts.”
Cato Institute’s vice president Ilya Shapiro told Fox News that the wording of Youngkin’s order is an instance of “really good lawyering.” The order cites a Virginia law that affirms parental rights over raising their children, which means that parents may “elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate.”
“Youngkin’s executive order is not the same as, say, Ron DeSantis’ in Florida, which said schools cannot impose mandates. All Youngkin says is that parents can opt out of any mandates,” Shapiro explains. “And so schools can and will maintain their mandates and parents will opt out.”
Youngkin seems to believe that district mask mandates and parents’ rights will be able to coexist under his executive order. Schools can’t force children to comply if their parents want them to go maskless.
“In Virginia, it is clear under law that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions for their children’s upbringing, their education and their care,” Youngkin shared with Fox News Sunday. “And so, we are providing parents an opt-out. We’re providing them the ability to make the right decision for their child with regards to their child’s well-being.”
Another of Youngkin’s executive orders banned the teaching of “inherently divisive concepts” in schools like critical race theory.
Youngkin says that the executive orders are “important steps” that start “the work of restoring excellence in education, making our communities safer, opening Virginia for business and reinvigorating job growth, and making government work for the people, and not the other way around.”
The governor told a reporter that he would look into ways to enforce his orders so parents are protected if schools choose not to comply.
What do you think about Youngkin’s first few executive orders as Virginia’s new governor?