Virginia Gov. Youngkin signs bill ending mask mandates for schoolchildren

One of the first things Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin did upon taking office in January was issue an executive order acknowledging the right of parents to decide whether or not their school-aged children had to comply with district mask mandates or not.

The Virginia state legislature quickly followed suit with a bill saying much the same thing that Youngkin has now signed into law, effectively codifying his prior executive order as a state statute, the Washington Examiner reported.

As a bonus, this move by the legislature and governor should also put an end to the hyperbolic debate over masking schoolchildren as well as the many legal challenges filed by Democrats and COVID-fearful parents against Youngkin’s earlier executive order.

Respecting the right of parents to make decisions for their children

When Gov. Youngkin was sworn into office on Jan. 15, the second action he took as the new governor was to issue an executive order “reaffirming the right of parents in the upbringing, education, and care of their children.”

The order primarily dealt with the mask mandates that many school districts across the state had imposed on students and provided parents with an “opt-out” for children concerning those mandates.

There was immediate pushback from the left in reaction to Youngkin’s order, and numerous lawsuits were filed to block it while some districts even went so far as to punitively retaliate against maskless students for the decisions of their parents following the governor’s order.

General Assembly codifies executive order as the law

Enter the Virginia state legislature with its new Republican majority, and local ABC affiliate WRIC reported that Senate Republicans — joined by three Senate Democrats — passed a bill last week that required school districts to prioritize in-person learning and provided parents with the option to ignore district-imposed mask mandates.

The General Assembly’s House of Delegates followed suit on Monday with a party-line vote to pass the measure and Youngkin immediately celebrated the news with a post to social media.

“I am pleased that there is widespread and bipartisan support in Virginia for a parental opt-out of mask mandates in schools. Today, the General Assembly took a significant step for parents and children,” he tweeted, and added, “After passing both chambers of the General Assembly, SB 739 will give parents a choice regarding their child’s health, education, upbringing, and care.”

Emergency clause hastens effective date of the new law

WRIC noted that, under normal circumstances, this newly-enacted law wouldn’t take effect until July, after the current school year had already concluded, meaning children and parents would be forced to endure the mask mandates for several more months.

However, the Examiner noted that Gov. Youngkin added an emergency clause to the bill — which a majority of the General Assembly subsequently approved — that moved the effective date of the new law up to March 1.

In other words, barring any future litigation or judicial activism, and assuming school districts don’t read the writing on the wall and act sooner than that date, the district-imposed mask mandates will be, for all intents and purposes, null and void in just a matter of weeks.

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