Ban on school mask mandates passed by Virginia House | New Policies

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) – The Virginia House of Delegates banned school mask mandates on Monday, giving Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin a victory after his efforts to impose the ban by executive order were blocked in court.

The measure has already been passed in the Senate. Youngkin’s office has indicated that it will sign it and plans to attach an emergency clause to it allowing it to take effect immediately. If he does, the bill will return to the legislature, where it will require a majority vote from each house, which could take just a few days.

Without the emergency clause, the bill would not come into effect until July 1.

In a statement, Youngkin called the passage a “significant step” that “will give parents choice regarding their child’s health, upbringing, upbringing and care.”

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Youngkin won the election in November on a campaign platform that emphasized parental choice in education. On his first day in office last month, he signed an executive order ending a statewide mask mandate in schools enacted by his predecessor, Democrat Ralph Northam.

Youngkin’s order also sought to prohibit local school systems from imposing mask mandates themselves, but it has become bogged down in legal challenges. Local school boards sued, claiming it usurped their authority, and an Arlington County judge issued a temporary injunction preventing the order from taking effect.

Moderate Democratic Senator Chap Petersen then joined Republicans in passing legislation giving parents the final decision on whether their children wear masks in school. Petersen and two other Democrats joined Republicans in pushing the legislation through the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow 21-19 advantage.

On Monday, the House passed the bill on a 52-48 vote, matching the 52-48 advantage Republicans hold there.

The House rejected several amendments proposed by Democrats, including one from Del. Marcus Simon who allegedly let the provision on the mask expire in 2023.

“We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know what variants are coming,” Simon said. “Let’s revisit this issue next year, perhaps under less politically turbulent circumstances, perhaps without this super-urgent rush to give the governor a political victory.”

Republicans, however, said mask mandates thwarted learning. They said communication is stifled and children lose the ability to learn from facial expressions.

“Students are uncomfortable, unable to discern emotions, hear words and communicate clearly. This poses clear challenges to social interaction and mental health,” Republican Del said. Amanda Batten.

Several states across the country have taken steps in recent days to end school mask mandates, including Democratic-controlled states including New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware.

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