His thoughts — Let’s talk about that mask settlement

Published 10:37 am Wednesday, December 21, 2022

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Earlier this month, the Commonwealth agreed to a limited settlement that will end a lawsuit brought by the parents of 12 seriously ill children challenging Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order on mandatory masking in K-12 schools and Senate Bill 739, the law passed earlier this year that ensured parents could choose whether their children wore masks in school.

This settlement is a very narrow document. The settlement does not involve the Federal government. No part of the Federal government was ever a party to the lawsuit. Under the agreed settlement, the Commonwealth agrees not to take any actions that would block students from seeking accommodations under the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

As drawn, the limited settlement essentially extends the injunction against the Commonwealth that has been in place for the past nine months. During that time, schools have largely been able to work out any issues with students who still want to mask as well as respecting the rights of those who do not want to mask.  

Early indications from the court were not promising for the Commonwealth’s case. The judge seemed inclined to rule that the Commonwealth’s law conflicted with the Federal ADA, and as such, would have to fall.

Losing in the District Court would have been a significant setback. While the Supreme Court has become more conservative, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, located in Richmond, has become one of the most left-leaning in the country.

Settling the case preserves the Commonwealth’s law with no real concessions–Executive Order 2 and SB 739 are still the law in Virginia. The Commonwealth did not and would not have interfered with any student request for accommodation under the ADA.

This process must be “interactive” and schools should consider alternatives. This includes taking reasonable steps to accommodate parents who do not want their children to wear a mask either.  

I appreciate the commonsense applied to this matter. Of course, we don’t want children with underlying conditions to feel unsafe from an illness out of their control. Government takes a situation like this and applies it to millions and millions of people. That is what is frustrating to the public. I applaud Governor Youngkin and look forward to returning to Richmond to continue our work on Virginia being the best place to live, work, worship and raise a family. 

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@House.Virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.