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Tipsheet

Youngkin Signs Legislation to Crush School Mask Mandates Immediately in Virginia

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) on Wednesday afternoon signed SB 739, which ensures that students are guaranteed in-person instruction, as well as empowers parents to make the choice on whether their children will wear masks to school. 

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During a live-streamed signing ceremony, Gov. Youngkin reminded that by signing such legislation, "we are reaffirming, reaffirming the rights that we know all parents have," which he referred to as "the fundamental rights to make decisions for your children, for their education, for their upbringing, and for their care."

Speakers at the signing ceremony included the leader of a parents group, a young student, Bronagh McAllister, who faced nine suspensions for not wearing a mask, and State Sen. Siobhan S. Dunnavant, a Republican who championed the bill. Youngkin commended her for how she "worked hard, across the aisle, to turn this into a win for all Virginians, on a bipartisan basis."

The legislation not only passed both the House of Delegates and the Democratically-control Senate, but the amendment on masking came from State Sen. Chap Petersen, a Democrat.

During her remarks, Dunnavant declared"this has been a long time coming" and "it is time to stop putting kids last." She also emphasized that one's health and whether or not to mask was best left made to individuals and for parents to decide for their children. "The political entities need to get out. We need to put the decision--parents are perfectly capable," she said to applause.

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Before signing the bill, Youngkin pointed out that "children have not only suffered learning loss, they've suffered relationship loss. And now's our chance to give all parents the rights to make decisions that we know they have." 

In acknowledging that there were many different people at the signing ceremony, Youngkin emphasized "this is not about any individual, it is about us, it's about us." He also added that "we are reestablishing restoring power back to parents, but we are also reestablishing our expectations that we will get back to normal, and this is the path, this is the path."

Youngkin had made parental choice a major focus on the campaign trail when running against former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, whom he defeated last November. As part of fulfilling a Day One campaign promise, Youngkin issued a series of executive orders shortly after taking office on January 15, including to do with optional masking. Such an order was tied up in the courts, though, as several school boards sued, claiming they had the authority to make decisions on mask mandates.

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"The injunction order in the Arlington case was in reference to the enforcement over the Governor’s executive order 2. This new legislation supersedes the Executive Order, so the injunction in the Arlington case is moot starting March 1," Victoria LaCivita, the communications director for Attorney General Jason Miyares explained in a statement to Townhall. 

The Fairfax County Public School system, which is the largest in Virginia and among the largest in the country, was part of such lawsuits. As Bronagh and other students are living proof of, the district has suspended students for not complying with mask mandates. In Loudoun County, which is involved in separate lawsuits, students were not only suspended, but could be charged with trespassing, with school staff being trained in how to go about getting a warrant.

The schools have until March 1 to comply with the newly signed law.

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