RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin is being sued in the Supreme Court of Virginia by a group of parents from Chesapeake over his executive order rescinding the state’s school mask mandate.
Hours after he was sworn into office, Youngkin followed up on a campaign promise and signed an order giving parents an option to opt-out of local school mask mandates. The order will take effect on Monday and will remain in place until it is amended or rescinded by the governor.
In a lawsuit filed in the state Supreme Court on Tuesday, a group of 13 parents with children in Chesapeake City Public Schools claim Youngkin’s order goes against the state law that calls for each school board to implement guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to the maximum extent practicable.”
The complaint challenges Youngkin’s authority to implement such actions, asserting that local school boards and the General Assembly “share primary responsibility for public school education.”
“Executive Order Number Two purports to sweep aside masking mandates and other protections with little or no consideration of or respect for CDC guidance, actions taken by the Virginia General Assembly, or the powers vested in school boards,” the lawsuit states.
After the new governor announced his executive order, a slew of local school superintendents shared that their districts would continue to require masks in the classroom.
“We will continue to protect parents’ fundamental right to make decisions with regard to their child’s upbringing, education and care,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement.
The Republican state lawmaker who introduced the legislation cited in the lawsuit, state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (Henrico), released a statement Monday saying that the measure does not mandate masks because the CDC does not have such a mandate. However, the CDC does not implement mandates, only recommendations.
“Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order does not ban masks; it gives parents options. Just like SB1303 does not mandate masks; it gives school boards a roadmap to keep schools open,” Dunnavant said.
The lawsuit also names Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, State Health Commissioner Colin Greene and the Chesapeake superintendent and school board as defendants. The school district’s spokesperson told 8News the system is aware of the litigation and will file “an appropriate response.”
The plaintiffs are asking the high court to rule that Youngkin’s order is unenforceable and grant their request stopping the order before it goes into effect and then on a permanent basis.
“Petitioners have no adequate remedy at law and no time to spare. They and their children are likely to suffer irreparable harm and damage if this Court declines to grant immediate relief,” the lawsuit claims.