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Seven school boards take joint legal action against Gov. Youngkin’s executive order

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Posted at 9:10 AM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 18:22:48-05

VIRGINIA - The Schools Boards of Alexandria City, Arlington County, City of Richmond, Fairfax County, Falls Church City, Hampton City and Prince William County have filed a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of Executive Order Two issued by the governor on January 15.

“School boards are placed in a legally untenable position - faced with an executive order that is in conflict with the constitution and state law,” Hampton City Schools said in a press release.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin's Executive Order Two gave Virginia parents, instead of school officials, the right to decide whether their child wears a mask in school.

These school boards are not the first parties to take legal action against the executive order.

A group of parents from Chesapeake filed a lawsuit where they state that Gov. Youngkin does not have the authority that he claims to make masks optional in schools. Also requesting that the effective date of the executive order be suspended.

On Monday, Gov. Youngkin’s spokesperson, Macaulay Porter, told News 3, "We are disappointed that these school boards are ignoring parent's rights. The governor and attorney general are in coordination and are committed to aggressively defending parents' fundamental right to make decisions with regard to their child’s upbringing, education and care, as the legal process plays out."

Victoria LaCivita, the Office of the Attorney General's Director of Communications said, “An unfortunate side effect of the COVID-19 emergency has been the irreversible harm to our children’s mental health and experience in the classroom. The Attorney General stands by the Governor’s executive order. The General Assembly has given him the power to take appropriate steps to confront this emergency and his determination that parents should make decisions regarding the health, wellbeing and safety of their children was an appropriate use of that power. As we wait for the Supreme Court’s guidance, the Attorney General’s office urges parents to listen to their principals. We have faith in legal process and will not be commenting further on the pending litigation at this time. “

Despite the order, masks remain mandatory at several local school divisions, including Norfolk and Portsmouth. News 3 asked Dr. Cardell Patillo, the chair of the Portsmouth School Board, what would happen if a parent tries to opt their child out of wearing a mask.

"We hope that we don't have any parents do that, but if so there are no other options for the child. They either have to wear a mask or they cannot be present," Patillo said.

Looking ahead, Jack Preis, a law professor at the University of Richmond, thinks Youngkin's order could have a tough time being upheld in court.

"If the governor wants to change the state of affairs with regard to masking, he needs to work with the legislature to change the statute, and that will actually change how masking works," Preis said.

Related: School boards across Hampton Roads decide whether to keep mask mandates in place