ALEXANDRIA, VA – Two weeks ago The Zebra Press published a story about the Alexandria School Board filing a lawsuit with six others against Gov. Youngkin’s executive order that ended the mask mandate in Virginia. The Arlington Circuit Court today sided with the Board and its partners in the suit – Arlington, Fairfax, Richmond, Hampton, and Prince William – issuing a temporary injunction regarding Executive Order Two.
In the order, Younkin 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.”
Today’s injunction permits students and staff to follow the current practices in place regarding the wearing of masks, as advised by the CDC and Virginia Health Department.
While the Court’s order is not permanent, it “protects the health and well-being of all students and staff,” Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) wrote in a press release.
Together, the seven school boards represent 350,000 students.
As the Zebra reported previously, the lawsuit raises the following questions:
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.
The Court’s opinion states: “Having addressed all aspects of whether a temporary restraining order should issue, the Court concludes that the School Boards’ Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order with regard
to optional masking of children should be granted, and the Court will issue an appropriate order, effective immediately.”
In response to the decision, ACPS wrote about anticipating the day when mask-wearing is no longer necessary. But they realize that has not yet arrived.
“We would like to thank our community for their diligence and patience as we navigate these challenging times, keeping the safety and best interests of our students and staff at the forefront in our communities.”