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Chesapeake parents sue Gov. Youngkin over optional-mask executive order. Here's what they and their attorney have to say.

As written, Gov. Glenn Youngkin's executive order would take effect Monday, January 24.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — UPDATE: Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed executive order number two on Jan. 15, aiming to give families a choice when it comes to whether their student wears a mask in school. 

But for some Chesapeake parents, they feel as though the only choice they had was legal action. 

“We have our own 'Why's'. Some of the plaintiffs have children who are severely immunocompromised," Amber Bowmer said, a parent and plaintiff in a new lawsuit against the Republican governor. 

Thirteen Chesapeake parents officially filed a lawsuit Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to block the executive order that allows parents to decide their child's mask use at schools.

“It's deeply unfortunate we’ve had to work as hard as we can to support what’s just common sense public safety," Melanie Cornelisse said, one of the plaintiffs and parents named in the case.

The lawsuit focuses on language from Senate Bill 1303 passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2021, which mandates that school boards must adhere to CDC guidance to the "maximum extent practicable" when providing in-person learning options. 

“Part of the reason there are multiple plaintiffs... this is not just an individual or a couple people zealous about masks. This is something that again, the core of the issue is governmental overreach," Bowmer said. 

Attorney Kevin Martingayle represents the parents in the case and told 13News Now that they believe Youngkin's executive order oversteps his authority as governor, and that he cannot supersede law passed through the General Assembly.  

“Best way to think about it is this: the governor can do more to increase public safety during an emergency. But what he can’t do is undermine what the General Assembly has said when it comes to public safety," Martingayle said. 

The lawsuit also names the Chesapeake School Board and Superintendent as defendants in the case. According to Martingayle, the hope is that the Supreme Court of Virginia suspends the executive order before taking effect next week, until the courts can hear the case. 

“There is specific language that says no governor has the power to suspend laws enacted by the General Assembly," he said.

On Thursday, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares moved to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the executive order restores the authority to parents.

“Tonight, we asked the Supreme Court of Virginia to protect the fundamental rights of parents to direct the upbringing, care, and education of their children. Governor Youngkin had every power to issue the executive order and with our filing, we again affirm that parents matter,” said Miyares.

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