Virginia’s new and controversial governor Glenn Youngkin got slapped down by a judge in Arlington County Friday when she put a hold on his mask-optional order in schools, saying he tried to exert power he does not have.
“The single issue before the Court is whether the Governor, via his emergency powers, can override the decision of local school boards delegated to them,” Circuit Judge Louise DiMatteo wrote in the ruling granting a temporary restraining order. “On this pivotal point, the Court concludes that the Governor cannot.”
DiMatteo’s 10-page order cites the Virginia Constitution, which is older than the U.S. one, and says clearly that the authority that Youngkin overstepped his bounds and tried to be a dictator and not an elected official who answers to voters, not his right-wing aides.
Youngkin, of course, promises to “never stop fighting for parents’ ability to choose what is best for their children,” notes the judge’s order is “temporary” and “just the first step in the judicial process.”
Don’t bet on it. Reports The Washington Post:
Experts, though, predicted that DiMatteo’s ruling suggests she will ultimately find in favor of the plaintiffs, determining that the governor does not have the authority to tell school boards whether the children they enroll should remain masked or not. Several called the judge’s line of thinking obvious, built around a largely unavoidable interpretation of the state constitution and the state law passed last year, known as SB1303.—The Washington Post
“The governor fought the law and the law won,” says University of Mary Washington political science professor Stephan Farnsworth.
The judge’s decision came on a lawsuit by seven Virginia school boards, including Fairfax County, the latest board with more than 180,000 students, plus Alexandria City, Hampton City, Richmond City, Prince William County, and Falls Church.
They are not alone. At least 70 other school boards in the Old Dominion have defied Youngkin’s order and have kept their mask requirements in place. Floyd County’s school board is not one of those, although masks are still required for students riding school buses.
At basketball games at Floyd County High School, where masks were mandated before Youngkin’s ruling, most fans were mask-less, but some players were competing with masks.
Loudoun County has suspended 29 students for failing to wear masks. Some parents in that wealthy, politically diverse county, have filed suit against their school board for failing to comply with Youngkin’s order.
Youngkin, and his politically-compliant attorney general and state schools superintendent, had joined the parents in the lawsuit, but other school districts are opposing the move.
All of this comes in the first month of Youngkin’s already controversial and disputed reign as Virginia’s new governor.
Fasten your seat belts. The next four years could be a rough and dangerous ride.