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Democrats say Youngkin's school mask rollback violates Virginia law

Republicans say the order doesn't ban masks, it just gives parents options.

RICHMOND, Va. — At least 16 school divisions across Virginia have said they are evaluating how to react to Governor Glenn Youngkin's order to roll back mask mandates.

But General Assembly Democrats say the order violates state law, and they are prepared to fight it.

On Tuesday, General Assembly Republicans applauded the order, which they say will empower parents to decide whether children should wear masks in school.

"He's doing exactly what he campaigned on and I believe that's exactly why he was elected: we're going to put our children first," said Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Scott County). "And he's going to make sure parents are involved in the decisions about education. And we're not going to apologize for that."

Republican lawmakers maintain the governor's order does not ban masks; it simply gives options to parents.

But Youngkin's Executive Order Number Two -- to give parents the choice to send their child to public school without a mask and without any reason -- is drawing much pushback from General Assembly Democrats.

"The communities as a whole will suffer," said Del. Kelly Covirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach). "It will all be because we did not listen to our teachers when they asked for help. We did not listen to our teachers, something every child learns in kindergarten."

House and Senate Democrats said Tuesday that Youngkin's order violates state law, and they're willing to do whatever it takes to fight Youngkin on the mask mandate rollback, even taking him to court if need be.

"If he were to try and withhold funding from public school divisions, we're not going to take any action off the table," said Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond). "Because it's our belief we need to do any and everything to protect the students, the staff, the teachers."

In a news release, the Democratic Party of Virginia called Youngkin's order "illegal" and said it "puts our children’s health and safety at risk as COVID-19 surges, and threatens in-person learning across the Commonwealth."

The executive order is supposed to take effect next Monday, January 24.

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