Virginia School Boards SUE Governor Over No-Mask Mandate + Exclusive with Virginia Secretary of Health


Photo by JEFF DEAN/AFP via Getty Images

Brandon Level

Just last week an Arlington judge temporarily halted Governor Youngkin’s executive order making masks optional across the state. 

In Youngkin’s 2021 gubernatorial election bid, he promised parents that he would restore their rights and allow them to choose whether or not their children wore face coverings and masks to schools. These parents were the main demographic that pushed Youngkin over the finish line and into the Governor’s office, so it is to no surprise that he followed through with his promise.

The newly elected governor did just that when he signed Executive Order 2 on his first day in office. The Executive Order (EO) mandated that all school boards remove their mandatory mask policies and allowed parents to make the decision whether or not to mask their children at school.

Seven Virginia school boards filed suit against the governor’s office. Fairfax, Alexandria, Richmond, Hampton, Falls Church, Arlington, and Prince William Counties school boards, were all a part of the suit to sue newly elected Governor Glenn Youngkin. 

In the suit, the school boards argue that Governor Youngkin overstepped his power by overriding school boards’ abilities to follow CDC guidelines vested in them by Senate Bill 1303. That bill came into law in 2021 under the Northam governorship and the goal of the bill was to “require each school board to offer in-person instruction to students enrolled in the local school division in a public elementary and secondary school”.

The bill’s summary, provided by Virginia’s Legislative Information System, doesn’t just stop there, but it goes on to say that “each school board is to provide such in-person instruction in a manner in which it adheres, to the maximum extent practicable, to any currently applicable mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” This bill gives school boards the ability to make decisions about students’ safety and wellbeing based on CDC guidance.

Due to the fact that legislation from Virginia’s General Assembly overrules that of the Governors, the seven school boards took this to the courts.

Judge Diacametto, an Arlington judge, took up the case last week and noted that “the single issue before the court is whether the Governor, via his emergency powers, can override the decision of local school boards delegated to them under SB 1303. The court concludes the Governor cannot.” This decision is a big blow to the governor’s push to make masks optional statewide but he does have some plans moving forward.

The ruling has now been appealed by the Governor, but some point out that Judge Diacametto should have recused herself due to her relationship with an Arlington Co. teacher. Her husband works as a teacher in Arlington Co. with a student in the district as well. However, two days prior to the case being taken up, the judge made it clear of her possible conflict of interest. After clarifying her possible conflict of interest, both parties decide to move forward with the case anyway.


In an exclusive with the Centreville Sentinel, Virginia Secretary of Health John Littel tells us this: 

Author Brandon Level: Why did the Governor issue his executive order about making masks optional in K-12 schools?

“During the campaign, the Governor heard from many students and their parents about COVID restrictions.  He wants to ensure that students are back in the classroom and remain safe.  He understands the value of reasonable restrictions especially during periods of high transmissions.   However, he believes that parents should have the right to determine how their children learn and wanted to ensure that there was an opt out in school divisions that maintained a mask mandate.  He also emphasized other safety features like high quality ventilation systems and other structural ways to prevent infection.”

Author Brandon Level: Now that an Arlington County judge has temporarily halted the EO that would effectively end mask mandates in schools, what does the governor plan to do next?

“The Governor will continue to stand up for the rights of parents.  There are several legal cases underway.  Ultimately, he believes that the Virginia constitution and statutes protect parents’ rights and his position will ultimately prevail.”


It seems that the Governor does have plans to fulfill his day-one promise to restore parents’ rights, but it is still unclear as to when we will see the outcome of these legal battles. Hopefully, going forward the rights of parents and students are protected while still keeping school children safe.