RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 13 Chesapeake parents who say the new governor’s order making masks optional in schools could cause “irreparable harm and damage.”
Miyares announced he had filed the motion Thursday night in the Supreme Court of Virginia, saying he took action “to fulfill his promise and protect the rights of parents.”
On Saturday, shortly after he was inaugurated, Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued a series of executive orders. One of them made face masks optional in K-12 schools in Virginia starting Jan. 24.
However, the 13 Chesapeake parents filed a petition earlier this week asking the Supreme Court of Virginia to step in and stop the order’s implementation. The parents’ 10-page petition argues that Youngkin lacks the authority to make that executive order, and leans on a state law that requires schools to follow mitigation measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Along with Youngkin, those named in the lawsuit include Virginia Acting State Health Commissioner Colin Greene, Virginia Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, the Chesapeake School Board and Chesapeake City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton.
“Tonight, we asked the Supreme Court of Virginia to protect the fundamental rights of parents to direct the upbringing, care, and education of their children,” Miyares said Thursday. “Governor Youngkin had every power to issue the executive order and with our filing, we again affirm that parents matter.”
A Chesapeake Public Schools spokesperson said on Tuesday that the division was aware of the lawsuit and would be “filing an appropriate response.”
On Thursday night, the Chesapeake School Board also voted 7-1 to align the division’s policy with Youngkin’s executive order, and remove the district’s requirements for masks. Board member Dr. Patricia King, a licensed physician, voted against the new policy.
Youngkin’s order calls the mask mandates in schools “ineffective and impractical.” The order as signed says a parent may elect for their children not to be subjected to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school.
Some school divisions, such as Poquoson and Chesapeake schools, decided to make masks optional starting Jan. 24. Others, including Norfolk, Accomack, Isle of Wight, Northampton County and others, will continue requiring masks.
Virginia Beach decided on Thursday to keep its mask mandate in place but give parents an option to “opt out.”