RICHMOND, Va. - Several school boards in Virginia have filed a joint lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Governor Glenn Youngkin's updated school mask order.
Alexandria City, Arlington County, City of Richmond, Fairfax County, Falls Church City, Hampton City and Prince William County took legal action in the suit filed Monday.
FILE - Surgical masks on a white surface stock photo. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
"The legal action, representing over 350,000 students across the state, defends the right of school boards to enact policy at the local level, including policies that protect the health and wellbeing of all students and staff," a joint statement continued.
"With COVID-19 transmission rates high, our hospitals at crisis level, and the continued recommendation of health experts to retain universal mask-wearing for the time being, this is simply not the time to remove this critical component of layered health and safety mitigation strategies," the joint statement continued. "School divisions need to continue to preserve their authority to protect and serve all our students, including our most vulnerable, who need these mitigation measures perhaps more than anyone to be able to continue to access in-person instruction."
Youngkin has officially unveiled his updated mask guidelines for parents, educators, and schools last week.
The guidelines go along with the governor's Executive Order 2, which creates a parental opt-out from mask mandates at both public and private schools in the Commonwealth.
The updated guidelines were developed by the Virginia Department of Health and the Department of Education.
In a press release issued Friday, Governor Youngkin once again affirmed that his decision to rescind the mask mandate is about giving parents the choice to decide what's best for their child.
"I have said all along that we are going to stand up for parents. Executive Order 2 is not about pro-masks versus anti-mask, it's about empowering parents. I am confident that the Virginia Supreme Court will rule in the favor of parents," Youngkin said. "In the meantime, I urge all parents to listen to their principal, and trust the legal process."
The Governor's office said that the updated mask guidance is redesigned around Governor Youngkin's key principles of parental rights, keeping kids in the classroom five days a week, and keeping kids safe and healthy.