Virginia Government Response to Differing Mask Laws


Will Hagaman

Image Designed By Will Hagaman (Created By Using Canva Website)

Governor Glenn Youngkin was inaugurated on Jan. 15, and already his administration has caused a ripple in the school system. His campaign revolved around a significant “Day One Game Plan” as it was coined, which stated that he would remove Critical Race Theory from the educational experience in Virginia public schools (even though it has been repeatedly stated that it is a graduate-level concept and not currently taught in K-12 VA schools). Another executive order,  Executive Order Two (EO2), presented an order that parents had the choice on how long to mask their kids during the school day, if at all. 

“There is no greater priority than the health and welfare of Virginia’s children. Under Virginia law, parents, not the government, have the fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of their children,” Executive Order Two stated.

Some counties have pushed back against this order. 69 school districts still require masks, and 64 have decided to follow EO2 and remove the mask mandate. The counties are split for many reasons, not only the concern for the student health, or the pushback from parents and educators, but more so due to the legal ramifications that the executive order had.

EO2 is said to be in violation of the CDC’s recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. This would usually not be a problem, as recommendations are just that, recommendations. But where recommendations change into law can be seen on Virginia law SB-1303, which requires school districts to adhere to the CDC’s recommendations “to the greatest extent practicable.”

Students are caught in this legal crossfire, and the Forge student body is unevenly divided on whether or not they follow SB-1303 or the executive order.

“I believe that there are good points on each side, I understand that everyone is struggling. The debate isn’t about whether or not you should wear masks, it’s about if you are legally required to under EO2 and SB 1303 and how they can conflict or work together depending on how you look at it. We need to bring the choice back to the parents who know best, who know us, who are the decision-makers, and the ones responsible for us,” said Ezra Jackson (‘23).

Into the Courts

Soon after EO2 was issued, Chesapeake City Public Schools and parents sued the governor. Much of this lawsuit revolved around the interpretation of SB-1303 and the interaction with the governor’s executive order. The case was thrown out this week due to a technicality, but this does not reflect a decision on the interpretation of the mandate. A future decision by the Virginia Supreme Court on another case of this topic would affect all of the counties, and if it is decided that the governor can overturn existing state law it would be one of the first decisions of this kind in Virginia’s history.


Other school systems have sued in smaller circuit courts. On Feb 4, in response to a lawsuit from seven NoVa school districts, Judge Louise DiMatteo of the Arlington Circuit Court issued a temporary restraining order on EO2 for Virginia.

During the hearing earlier she said, “I’m not here to decide who is right and wrong on masking. This case is a question of who has authority.”

The school districts will continue to make their own decisions on which action to follow, whether that be to wear masks or not. This case will likely be brought to the Virginia Supreme Court where a final decision would be reached in regard to which order to follow for all Virginia schools.

Different branches of government and their role in the mask mandate debate and EO2.

At the local level

All the back and forth in the courts leaves the school boards split on how to interpret the law and what to do about the mask mandates as they wait for the courts to rule.

Immediately after E02 was announced, Superintendent Thomas Taylor issued a letter stating that beginning Jan 24, parents would be able to opt their children out of the mask mandate. After community backlash, and a closed-door meeting with their attorney, they voted 5-2 to stick with the interpretation of SB1303 that did not include parent choice. This, of course, brought about more community backlash, a school board meeting lasting well past midnight, and a specially called meeting for Thursday, Feb 10, for the board to revote.

Each meeting has been full of vocal and passionate community input on both sides.

“I think that students and teachers should have to wear masks at school. It makes everyone safer, and since many people refuse to get vaccinated, this county is very susceptible to Covid,” Heather Meadows (’24) said.  “Without many people wearing masks, basically, everyone would, probably, get sick, regardless of whether they had a mask on or are vaccinated. Even currently, with the mask mandate, much of the student body is out sick. We are just dropping like flies. The longer we have masks, the safer it will be in the long run and eventually, masks will be irrelevant. But now, if masks weren’t required, Covid will just reign longer.” 

For many, the choice isn’t as clear.

“I’m not sure how I feel or what organization to believe. Studies are showing that paper and cloth masks do nothing whereas other studies are showing them to be effective. Other studies show Covid cases are the same in schools without masks as they are with masks. At this point I don’t have an opinion on the mask mandate.” said Makayla Grubb (‘25)


No matter the ruling of the courts, or the legislation of the Va Supreme Court, all passengers must be masked at all times on a school bus. This is one of the only national laws set that must be followed on the topic of masking, the CDC gave the order to all public transportation, which includes school buses in every state. So no matter what, the school day in some regards will have mitigating strategies in place when counting the transportation to and from school.