Virginia Senate approves amendment to bill allowing parental choice over mask-wearing in schools

The amendment to the bill allows a parental opt-out from local school mask mandates.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

On Tuesday, the Virginia state Senate voted to approve an ammendment to a bill allowing parents to choose whether or not their children will wear masks in school.

The Democrat-controlled Senate chamber voted 29 to 9 in favor of Democratic state Sen. Chap Petersen's floor amendment Tuesday to Republican state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant's in-person learning bill. The legislative amendment creates the option for parents to opt-out from local school mask mandates, without giving an excuse and regardless of rules adopted by local school boards.

The legislation, SB739, itself would require school boards in Virginia to offer in-person instruction to each public school division "for at least the minimum number of required annual instructional hours," according to the bill's summary.

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law or any regulation, rule, or policy implemented by a school board, school division, school official, or other state or local authority, the parent of any child enrolled in a public elementary or secondary school, or in any school-based early childhood care and education program, may elect for such child to not wear a mask while on school property. A parent making such an election shall not be required to provide a reason or any certification of the child's health or education status. No student shall suffer any adverse disciplinary or academic consequences as a result of this parental election," the floor amendment in the nature of a substitute reads.

"In an overwhelming bipartisan show of support, the Senate of Virginia took a significant step today for parents and children. I applaud Senator Petersen’s amendment to give parents the right to decide whether their children should wear masks in schools," said Gov. Glenn Youngkin, praising in a Tuesday press statement the "overwhelming" adoption of Petersen's amendment to SB739.

"In the last week, we have seen Democrat-led states like Oregon, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware move away from universal mask mandates in schools. I am pleased that there is bipartisan support for doing the same in Virginia. This shows that when we work across the aisle, we put Virginians first. I look forward to signing this bill when it comes to my desk," he continued.

Youngkin announced a list of new executive orders on his first day in office as Virginia's newly-elected governor that includes one "allowing parents to make decisions on whether their child wears a mask in school."

However, last week, a Virginia judge ruled Youngkin can't override local school board officials in regards to who has the authority to demand what when it comes to mask mandates, resulting in a temporary pause on the executive order.


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