The Virginia House of Delegates approved a bill on Monday that would provide parents the power to decide whether they want their child to wear a mask at school. The vote came along party lines, with 52 Republicans supporting and 48 Democrats opposing.
As part of a larger bill requiring local school divisions to provide students in-person education for “at least the minimum number of required annual instructional hours,” SB 739 previously passed the state’s Democrat-controlled Senate last week in a 21-17 vote, with three Democrats joining Republicans in supporting the measure.
According to the legislation, “[N]otwithstanding 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.”
The bill also states that parents will “not be required to provide a reason or any certification of the child’s health or education status” and that “[n]o student shall suffer any adverse disciplinary or academic consequences as a result of this parental election.”
The amendment transferring child masking authority to Virginia parents was proposed by Democrat Sen. Chap Petersen, who previously blasted the forced muzzling of students as “political.”
“It has become hard, if not impossible, to find a respected medical researcher who still defends Forced Masking of Children as a public safety measure,” wrote Petersen in a letter to the superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools. “For the past two years, we have seen the lives of our children disrupted and destroyed by a pandemic that posed little, or no, threat to them physically. Too many decisions involving children have been dictated by political expediency. As a parent, I’ve had enough.”
Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who is expected to sign the legislation, reacted positively to the bill’s passage, noting his pleasure at the “widespread and bipartisan support in Virginia for a parental opt-out of mask mandates in schools.”
“Today, the General Assembly took a significant step for parents and children,” he said. “After passing both chambers of the General Assembly, SB 739 will give parents a choice regarding their child’s health, education, upbringing, and care.”
While the legislation would not take effect until July 1 upon Youngkin’s signature, Youngkin’s staff informed The Federalist that Youngkin plans to amend SB 739 with an emergency clause, in which the amendment would be voted on by the House and Senate to allow the measure to become law immediately.
Efforts to free Virginia’s children from irrational mask tyranny come amid political moves by multiple Democrat governors to shift away from school mask mandates. Last week, the leftist leaders of Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, and Oregon all announced plans to let their school masking dictates expire over the next two months, while failing to indicate what major change in “the science” of Covid led to such decisions.
Shawn Fleetwood is an intern at The Federalist and a student at the University of Mary Washington, where he plans to major in Political Science and minor in Journalism. He also serves as a state content writer for Convention of States Action. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnFleetwood