Parents file temporary restraining order to stop mask-optional mandate
The parents of 12 children with disabilities have filed for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to advance their Feb. 1 lawsuit.
The suit asks the court to immediately prohibit Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his administration from enforcing Executive Order 2 against Virginia school districts and allow school districts the authority to keep in place the masking requirements when needed to make it safe for their children to attend school.
After Executive Order 2 went into effect, many Virginia school districts dropped their existing masking requirements, creating an environment where the safety of immunocompromised children is dependent on where they live. The plaintiffs argue that, under current COVID-19 conditions, their children are facing irreparable harm if the government is allowed to enforce the executive order.
The suit maintains that the executive order forces students with disabilities to risk their safety or give up their education in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal laws that protect disabled children.
“For some families, choosing whether their child wears a mask and whether they are willing to be around other children not wearing masks is just that, a personal choice. But, for my child, and other high-risk children, if their peers are not wearing masks, it creates a life-threatening situation. I have to choose whether to put my child’s life at risk or harm their education and social development,” said plaintiff Tasha Nelson, mother of a 10-year-old Manassas student with cystic fibrosis.
COVID-19 cases are still high among Virginia’s children, with 7,458 cases, 34 hospitalizations, and one death reported in the last two-week reporting period. All children and staff in schools are at risk, but according to the CDC, “(c)hildren with underlying medical conditions are more at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with children without underlying medical conditions.”
“The risk is too great for my son,” said plaintiff Meghan Dufrain, whose 7-year-old has cystic fibrosis and attends Cumberland County Public Schools. “We have had to pull him and his two siblings out of in-person school and try to cobble together an adequate education at home. I hate that they are missing educational opportunities and social engagement, but I can’t risk his life.”
“We believe an immediate temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction are needed to protect immunocompromised students in the schools that choose to make masks optional, and halt action by the governor and his agencies to interfere with local school districts’ ability to continue their mask mandate,” says Eden Heilman, legal director, ACLU of Virginia.
“An immediate temporary restraining order will provide the safest pause for all concerned as the legal cases work their way through the court system” says Kaitlin Banner, deputy legal director, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs.
The parents are represented by the ACLU of Virginia, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, Brown Goldstein & Levy, the disAbility Law Center of Virginia, and Arnold & Porter.