A Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge on Monday scheduled a preliminary hearing for Feb. 16 in a pending lawsuit in which a group of three parents are suing the Loudoun County School Board for not following an executive order that loosened mask policies in schools.
Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James Fisher scheduled the hearing for a judge who has yet to be determined. A backup date was set for Feb. 23.
As previously reported, a group of three Loudoun County parents filed a lawsuit on Feb. 1 in the circuit court challenging the school division for not following the governor’s executive order mandating universal masking in the school division.
Two days later, the Virginia Governor, Attorney General and Superintendent of Public Instruction filed a motion seeking to join the lawsuit. Fisher granted the request on Monday.
On Jan. 24, an executive order from Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) allowed parents to decide whether their children should wear face masks in school, despite the transmission rate remaining high locally, around the commonwealth and nationwide. LCPS, however, implemented a local policy mandating the continued use of face masks before the executive order took effect.
The Office of the Attorney General of Virginia said in a Feb. 2 statement that the commonwealth has better risk mitigation strategies and vaccines than at the outset of the pandemic, and knows much more about the efficacy of requiring children to wear masks all day.
Further, the release states that parents “know what is best for their children and should be able to decide if their children wear a mask for eight hours a day,” leading to the motions for a temporary injunction and for temporary restraining order.
The parents — Kristen Barnett, Heather Yescavage and Colin Doniger — all of whom are parents of elementary school-aged students, claim in the petition that the Loudoun County School Board’s universal mask mandate violates the governor’s order.
The Virginia Supreme Court on Monday morning rejected on procedural grounds, a challenge to the order, known as Executive Order 2, by a group of parents in Chesapeake.
Further, the group of Loudoun parents claim the School Board is denying their children in-person education, which they said violates a portion of Code of Virginia requiring all in-person school instruction to comply, “to the maximum extent practicable” with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mitigation strategies, and guidance from the CDC.
The parents also claim that the School Board lacks authority to impose a mask mandate and went beyond their authority, and was “arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion” in continuing the universal mask mandate.
LCPS said students who are not in compliance with the mask mandate will be suspended, according to a Jan. 26 letter to parents. The letter was included in the suit.
A total of 29 students in LCPS were suspended on the first day of enforcement for not complying with the mandate, an LCPS spokesman told the Times-Mirror. Eight students have since returned to school
LCPS has more than 82,000 students, according to division records.
The parents are seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief that would prohibit the board from enforcing the mask policy, require the School Board to permit students to attend school without wearing a mask, and prohibit the board from denying students in-person educational instruction in schools on the basis of their parents’ decision on whether to wear a mask.
Last week, attorneys representing the School Board filed a motion to stay proceedings pending resolutions in the Alexandria City School Board and Gov. Youngkin case granting temporary injunctions for seven School Boards mandate face masks.
An Arlington Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the School Board determining that Executive Order 2 was not a valid exercise of authority by the Governor and that the Governor was not entitled to a preliminary injunction requiring the School Boards to comply with the order, according to court records.
The governor is appealing the decision.
Monday’s hearing lasted nearly half an hour and included attorneys from all the parties.