Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) fulfilled nearly one dozen campaign promises upon entering office, issuing nine executive orders including one that empowered parents to choose whether their children wear face masks to school.
But recalcitrant school officials are bucking Youngkin’s order and forcing children to continue wearing face masks.
What did the order say?
Executive Order Two, signed on Saturday, empowers Virginia parents to decide whether their children wear face masks in schools.
The order does not forbid children to wear masks at school; it simply strips definitive decision-making from school officials and thus bans district-wide mask mandates.
"Permitting parents to make decisions on where and when to wear masks permits the Commonwealth’s parents to make the best decision for the circumstances confronting each child," the order states, in part. "Parents can assess the risks and benefits facing their child, consult their medical providers, and make the best decision for their children based on the most up to date health information available."
The order goes into effect on Jan. 24.
But what did school districts do?
School districts across the commonwealth, particularly those in liberal areas, immediately reacted to Youngkin's order by vowing to violate it and keep mask mandates in place.
School officials in Fairfax County, Arlington, Alexandria, and Henrico County sent messages to parents explaining universal mask mandates will remain in place despite Youngkin's order. Meanwhile, Prince William County pre-emptively said its mask mandate would remain in place, while Loudoun County Public Schools also bucked the order.
In defying Youngkin's order, some school officials pointed to a new Virginia law, passed by state lawmakers last year, that requires schools to comply with "applicable mitigation strategies" from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to keep schools open.
However, the CDC does not require that schools mandate masking; current guidance simply recommends indoor masking.
How did Youngkin respond?
The Republican governor said the immediate defiance by school districts demonstrates their refusal to listen to parents.
"If there is one thing that hopefully everybody heard in November is it is time to listen to parents," Youngkin said Sunday. "Over the course of the week, I hope they will listen to parents."
"Because we will use every resource within the governor's authority to explore what we can do and will do in order to make sure parents' rights are protected," he continued.
Youngkin explained in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" that he will fight to uphold parents' rights.
"We said all along that we were going to stand up for parents, because let's just be clear, what's happened over the last few years is that bureaucrats and politicians have absolutely stopped listening to parents. And 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 said.
"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," he added. "We're going to use all the authority that I have to consider all options to protect that right, and I think this is exactly what Virginians voted for in November and we delivered yesterday."
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