ALEXANDRIA, VA – This morning the Alexandria School Board and six others in Virginia filed a joint lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Executive Order Number Two, signed by new governor, Glenn Younkin, on Jan. 15. In the order, the governor wrote: “Recent government orders requiring virtually every child in Virginia wear masks virtually every moment they are in school have proven ineffective and impractical. They have also failed to keep up with rapidly changing scientific information.”
Alexandria – in teaming with the School Boards of Arlington, Fairfax, Hampton, Falls Church, Richmond, and Prince William to file the suit – is helping to represent 350,000 students across the state. The lawsuit defends board rights to enact local policies, including those that protect the health and well-being of students, teachers, and staff.
On Jan. 16, Alexandria City Public Schools disseminated a press release in which they said that despite Youngkin’s order, masks would still be required. It read in part: “Masks, combined with multiple other ACPS mitigation measures, have been effective in helping to protect the collective health and safety of our students and staff and keep our schools open for in-person learning.”
The Alexandria COVID-19 Dashboard shows that the city is still in the High Transmission category with 1,122 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past week. Additionally, new cases (254) have risen since yesterday.
The legal action by the school boards, discussed in a press release issued today, focuses on “fundamental questions” about education as defined by the Virginia Constitution and the General Assembly,
The lawsuit asks the following:
1) Do locally-elected boards have the exclusive authority and responsibility conferred upon them by Article VIII, § 7 over supervision of public schools, or does an executive order can override constitutional authority?
2) Can a governor, through executive order and without legislative action by the General Assembly, reverse a lawfully-adopted statute?
The statute in question is Senate Bill 1303, adopted in March of last year. It states that school boards should follow current CDC guidelines. The legislation’s goal was to return students to safe in-person learning.
“Without today’s action, school boards are placed in a legally untenable position — faced with an executive order that is in conflict with the constitution and state law,” reads the release. “[The lawsuit] is not politically motivated. These seven school divisions would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the governor to ensure the safety and welfare of all students.”