Judge sides with 12 disabled children asking for masks in schools

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that an executive order and new Virginia law allowing parents to take their children out of class with COVID-19 masks mandate 12 vulnerable students to demand “reasonable amendments.” Which may include a requirement that their classmates wear masks.

These students’ health conditions, which include cancer, cystic fibrosis, asthma, Down syndrome, lung conditions and a weakened immune system, make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, their parents say. He sued Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin and other state officials in February, arguing that the mask-optional policy effectively excludes some disabled children from public schools is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

US District Court Judge Norman Moon partially granted an injunction sought by the parents. But he insisted that the executive order and state law are in effect, and added that families of any other vulnerable children would have to make up their own cases.

“This is not a class action, and the twelve plaintiffs in this case have no legal right to ask a court to deviate from the law of that state at any school in Virginia (very few school districts) their children do not attend.” are, or even those, areas of their schools where the plaintiff’s children do not often visit,” he wrote.

Youngkin campaigned against the mask and vaccine mandate, and his first act after being sworn in as governor in January was to sign an executive order calling for masks to be made optional in schools.

Confusion, pushback from school districts, and litigation swiftly ensued. In February, the divided General Assembly took action, with some Democrats joining Republicans in legislation banning local school systems from applying mask mandates to students starting on March 1.

The plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, the Disability Law Center of Virginia, the Washington Lawyers Committee, and two private law firms.

Moon found that plaintiffs are likely to be successful on the merits of their claim that executive orders and new state laws are “predetermined by federal law, to the extent that they allow plaintiffs’ schools or school districts to consider plaintiffs’ individual requests.” prevent or limit the doing. That otherwise applicable Virginia law requires some amount of masking as a ‘reasonable amendment’.”

They have written that the public interest is served by allowing their school districts to consider their individual requests.

The injunction will remain in effect until a final decision is issued in the trial, the judge wrote.

Republican Attorney General Jason Miares said in a brief statement that the ruling reaffirms that “parents have the right to make choices for their children.”

Eden Heilman, legal director for the ACLU of Virginia, said the group sees the ruling as a victory and is thrilled for its clients.

Although the ruling is limited to 12 plaintiffs, it could serve as a “blueprint” for other students with disabilities in Virginia who can point to it and ask their school district for accommodations, she said.

Heilman also said she can’t rule out the possibility of a class-action suit down the road.

Schools directly affected by the judge’s decision are: Brownsville Elementary School in Albemarle County; Stanton River Middle in Bedford County; Grassfield Elementary and Southeastern Elementary in Chesapeake; Annon Elementary in Chesterfield County; Cumberland Elementary in Cumberland County; Stanwood Elementary in Fairfax County; Quioccasin Middle in Henrico County; Trailside Middle and Loudoun County High in Loudoun County; Jenny Dean Elementary in Manassas City; and Tab Middle in York County.

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