One piece of legislation that passed through both the House and Senate in the Virginia General Assembly could permanently change a school-based COVID mitigation strategy going forward.
Senate Bill (SB) 739 passed in the Senate on Feb. 9 and in the House on Feb. 14. The bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, would allow parents to choose whether or not to mask their children at school without having to provide a reason or any certification of the child’s health or education status.
If this legislation sounds like déjà vu, you could be thinking of Youngkin’s Executive Order 2. The governor signed the order on his first day in office in an attempt to make masking in schools a parental decision, rather than allowing state health officials or local school boards to decide the safest policy for their division.
School divisions across the state retaliated against the order, with more than half of Virginia schools keeping mask requirements in place.
Seven Virginia schools boards filed a lawsuit against the governor on Jan. 24, the same day Executive Order 2 went into effect. An Arlington judge granted the divisions a restraining order against the ban while the matter went through court. However, a Chesapeake City Public Schools parent-led lawsuit over the order didn’t meet the same fate—the Virginia Supreme Court dismissed the case.
The legislation will soon pass across Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk, where he is expected to sign it, adding in an emergency clause that would take effect before July 1.