Virginia Senate Approves Bill Amendment That Bans Public School Mask Mandates, Private Exempt

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, center, signs executive orders in the Governors conference room as Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, left, Suzanne Youngkin, Second from left, Attorney General Jason Miyares, second from right, and Secretary of the Commonwealth, Kay Cole James, right, look on at the Capitol Saturday Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

On Tuesday, the Virginia state Senate voted to approve an amendment to a bill that will ban public schools from forcing students to wear masks in the classroom. It notably only applies to public institutions — private schools will still be able to have children remain muzzled in the classroom if they wish.

The legislation, SB739, requires 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. It was approved in a bipartisan manner; the Democrat-controlled Senate chamber voted 29 to 9 in favor of the floor amendment, which was introduced by Democrat state Sen. Chap Petersen on Tuesday.

“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 added floor amendment reads.

Governor Glenn Glenn Youngkin praised the Virginia senate for what he described as a moment of unity.

“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 the Virginia governor in a Tuesday press statement about the legislation.

“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 previously made news after he signed a list of executive orders during his first day in office, including one pertaining to “allowing parents to make decisions on whether their child wears a mask in school.” Big League Politics covered that consequential day. The ‘mask opt-out’ order by the governor was soon shot down by a judge, resulting in a temporary pause on the rule which will likely end shortly after SB739 goes into effect.

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