STATEWIDE — An Arlington Circuit Court judge has issued a temporary injunction on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Executive Order 2, which calls for parent choice regarding whether or not their student(s) would wear face coverings to school.
On Friday, Feb. 4, the injunction was ordered by Judge Louise DiMatteo regarding a request put in by seven schoolboards from across the Commonwealth. The schoolboards from the cities of Alexandria, Richmond, Falls Church, and Hampton, as well as the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William requested the temporary injunction in order to restore mandatory mask wearing in the Commonwealth’s public schools for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year.
Judge DiMatteo examined the laws as they stand, most notably SB 1303, which was passed into law last year. SB 1303 placed COVID-19 mitigation protocols in the hands of the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and the individual school systems based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance. SB 1303 is set to expire in August 2022.
In his opinion, DiMatteo stated, “The issue before the Court is whether the Governor, via his emergency powers, can override the decision of local school boards delegated to them under SB 1303. On this pivotal point, the Court concludes that the Governor cannot.” DiMatteo also added that the Governor does not have the authority to issue just such an executive order in defiance of Virginia law.
A joint statement from the seven school boards that were the plaintiffs/counter-defendants in this case was issued on February 4. In it, the school systems stated:
“Prior to today’s decision, Virginia school boards were placed in a legally untenable position — faced with an executive order in conflict with the state constitution and state law. That conflict has also put the health and safety of our students and staff at risk, as the Omicron variant continues to affect Virginia localities… We look forward to a day in the not-too-distant future when universal mask-wearing is no longer needed as part of our layered health mitigation strategies in order to keep our schools open for in-person learning, but that day is not yet here.”
While Gov. Youngkin’s office has not issued an official statement regarding this, the Governor’s Press Secretary Macaulay Porter took to Twitter on Friday to state, “We are going to appeal, this is just the first step in the judicial process.”
In the Historic Triangle, both Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools and York County School Division’s school boards voted to maintain the mask mandate while Poquoson City Public Schools and Gloucester County Public Schools sided with Executive Order 2. No statement has been issued by any of the Historic Triangle’s school districts nor the Virginia Department of Education regarding the next steps in enforcing SB 1303.
WYDaily will continue to keep you up-to-date on this developing story as more information becomes available.