Virginia has arguably been ground zero over the past couple years for parents objecting to out-of-control school districts issuing objectionable policies on any number of subjects, from critical race theory to transgender identity policies to pornographic reading materials to downplaying sexual assault incidents in the schools.
And forcing students to wear masks as protection against COVID-19 was another policy that, added to other parental complaints, has even been credited with leading to the election of a governor in the Old Dominion who pledged to end such mandates. But when newly elected Governor Glenn Youngkin issued Executive Order Number Two (2022) on January 15 handing the right to make mask decisions for students back to their parents, it was immediately challenged in the courts. On February 4, a state judge ruled the executive order exceeded the governor’s authority.
But the Virginia legislature got involved as well and, following the judge’s ruling, amended a pending education bill, Senate Bill 739 (SB 739), to add language giving parents the right to opt out their children from any mask requirement on school property. The bill passed the Virginia Senate on February 9 by a vote of 21 to 17 and passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 52 to 48 on February 14.
The bill is now headed to Gov. Youngkin, who is expected to sign the bill and add an emergency clause, which will cause the law to become effective July 1.
“I am pleased that there is widespread and bipartisan support in Virginia for a parental opt-out of mask mandates in schools. Today, the General Assembly took a significant step for parents and children. After passing both chambers of the General Assembly, SB 739 will give parents a choice regarding their child’s health, education, upbringing, and care,” said Youngkin, as reported by NBC12.
Parental rights advocates celebrated the legislation, including Focus on the Family ally The Family Foundation of Virginia.
“We’re thrilled to see both the legislature and our Governor responding to parents who have been asking for the opportunity to make the decisions pertaining to their child as they see fit,” said Victoria Cobb, President of The Family Foundation of Virginia.
Parents looking to get more involved in their children’s schooling and who want to understand their rights and their children’s rights in the public schools should check out this free online resource from Focus on the Family.
Fighting for the Next Generation: School Board Elections, Parental Rights and ‘The Washington Post’
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