Virginia governor sued again over order to make masks optional in schools

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – A civil liberties group said on Tuesday it sued Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and his administration over his order making masks optional in public schools, saying it violates the rights of students vulnerable to complications from COVID-19.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU) said its suit in a federal court in Charlottesville seeks a temporary restraining order and permanent lifting of Youngkin’s order barring school districts from implementing universal mask requirements. The ACLU said the order violates federal disabilities law.

The ACLU lawsuit argues the repeal of mask mandates effectively excludes these students from public schools, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act.

The plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit filed on Tuesday are students whose disabilities make them particularly susceptible to severe illnesses if they contract the coronavirus. These conditions include cancer, cystic fibrosis, moderate to severe asthma, Down syndrome, lung conditions, and weakened immune system, according to the lawsuit.

The office of the Virginia governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday evening.

Disagreements and court action over mask mandates in a number of states have become a flashpoint of the pandemic response in the United States, often dividing Democrats and Republicans.

Supporters of such mandates say they are a must to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic; opponents argue they curb individual liberty.

In January, Youngkin signed an executive order allowing parents to opt out of school mask mandates for children.

Youngkin is also facing a separate lawsuit from seven school boards over the order to make masks optional in schools.

Youngkin said last week: “If localities want to have a mask mandate, they absolutely are able to. However, parents have a right to opt out. They know what is best for their kids.”

Students leave Washington-Liberty High School in Arlington County which is one of several school districts which sued to stop the mask-optional order by Governor Glenn Youngkin (R), in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 25, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

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