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Federal judge rules in favor of Virginia parents in mask lawsuit

Virginia state officials will not be allowed to prevent or limit 10 school divisions from considering mask requirements as an accommodation for some students with disabilities, under a federal injunction.

A federal judge in Charlottesville issued the temporary injunction late Wednesday, which only extends to the 12 plaintiffs in the lawsuit who sued last month challenging the legality of the new state law, Senate Bill 739.

Two parents in Albemarle County whose son attends Brownsville Elementary are the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Their son, a third-grader, has leukemia. That, coupled with the treatments, put him at higher risk for severe illness if he were to contract COVID-19.

That law and an executive order allowed parents to opt out of mask requirements. That meant, plaintiffs argued, that school systems couldn’t require a classroom of a student with a disability to all wear masks if that was deemed necessary.

Plaintiffs said the law violated federal laws that require equal access for children with disabilities because masking helped to provide a safer learning environment for their children. A hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion for an injunction was held earlier this month.

The state argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue and hadn’t exhausted all their options under federal law.

U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon wrote in his order that federal law allows the plaintiffs to request a reasonable modification from state or local laws.

“The challenged state laws (E.O. 2 and S.B. 739) are preempted inasmuch as they pose an obstacle to Plaintiffs’ right,” he wrote.

Moon expanded on the injunction in a 56-page opinion.

The ACLU of Virginia, which represented the parents along with some other legal organizations, shared the news on Twitter late Wednesday evening.

“We will have more to say tomorrow,” the organization wrote. “For now, we are glad the court agreed: No student should have to risk their lives to go to school.”


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