Virginia’s Youngkin, big school districts on collision course over mask mandates

On his first day in office, the newly sworn-in governor issued an order that allows parents to decide if their children wear masks to school.

Updated: January 17, 2022 - 9:31am

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One of the executive orders signed by new Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin removes the school masking requirement across the state. However, two Northern Va. counties – Arlington and Alexandria – have said they will be keeping the masking policies in place.

Youngkin's order places the power to decide if a child goes to school masked in the hands of the student's parent. "A child whose parent has elected that he or she is not subject to a mask mandate should not be required to wear a mask under any policy implemented by a teacher, school, school district, the Department of Education, or any other state authority," reads the order.

Yet 12 hours after the governor's order, the Arlington Public School system announced that it would not be complying with the order.

"Arlington Public Schools implemented our mask requirement this school year prior to Gov. Northam’s K-12 mask mandate, and we will continue to make decisions that prioritize the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff, following the guidance of local and national health professionals," the system said in a statement.

Alexandria City schools soon followed suit, writing "ACPS will continue to abide by the health and safety guidelines of the CDC and the Alexandria Health Department and continue to require all individuals to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth in ACPS schools, facilities and buses."

In response to a question about the actions of Arlington and Alexandria, Youngkin said, "We wrote the order specifically to give all the school systems, basically, eight days to get ready to listen to parents."

He added that he would use "every resource within the governor’s authority to explore what we can and will do to ensure parents’ rights are protected."