RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Disabled students at certain public central Virginia schools can now request that their fellow students mask up in the classroom after a lawsuit settlement was reached on Monday.
Parents of students at 12 Virginia schools filed a lawsuit back in February which challenged an executive order from Governor Glenn Youngkin, as well as a new state law, that gives parents the right to exempt their children from mask mandates.
After the settlement was reached on Monday, Dec. 12, these parents can now request that their children’s peers be required to wear masks.
However, this settlement is not wide-reaching. Instead, it applies only to the public schools attended by the students in the suit. These schools are:
- Brownsville Elementary School in Albemarle County
- Stanton River Middle in Bedford County
- Grassfield Elementary and Southeastern Elementary in Chesapeake
- Enon Elementary in Chesterfield County
- Cumberland Elementary in Cumberland County
- Stenwood Elementary in Fairfax County
- Quioccasin Middle in Henrico County
- Trailside Middle and Loudoun County High in Loudoun County
- Jennie Dean Elementary in Manassas City
- Tabb Middle in York County
As the students involved in the suit move through the public school system, the settlement will then also apply to all other schools they attend.
“How it’s gonna work is going to have to have to be determined by the schools,” 8News Legal Analyst Russ said. “I think it’s important for people to remember this is the result of lawsuit that was filed only for certain schools.”
The parents who sued said that under the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, requiring masks is a reasonable accommodation for students at high risk of complications from COVID-19. The school district is then supposed to engage in something called an “interactive process” to determine whether peer masking is required.
“Those parents essentially filed a suit to say ‘we want the school to be able to make other students who are near our children mask up if necessary,'” Stone said. “So that is what the settlement says but it also gives the schools a great deal of discretion in how they make those accommodations.”
If other parents don’t want their child to wear a mask, the settlement instructs schools to take reasonable steps to accommodate those parents as well, including rearrangement of classroom seating or class assignments. The settlement says schools should also consider alternatives like social distancing, ventilation improvements and teacher masking.
”The settlement also recognizes that the school has to make accommodations for students whose parents do not want them wearing masks,” Stone said. “And that’s kinda hard because what that’s saying is you have to make accommodation for the students who want a mask and the students who don’t. It’s hard to make everybody happy.”
The settlement is not active yet. U.S. District Judge Norman Moon, must still sign off on the deal for it to go into effect.