CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears is defending the decision by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) to make mask-wearing optional in K-12 classrooms, in both public and private schools.
“He has always said that the parents ought to be able to make that decision,” Sears said during her appearance on “The Donlon Report.” “And parents have elected him to be the governor. So, he’s really simply fulfilling what he has said that he would do.”
Seven Virginia school boards have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Youngkin’s executive order, which took effect Monday. In the lawsuit, the school boards say the governor does not have the authority to impose such an order and it violates the Virginia constitution.
The lawsuit also claims the order contradicts a state law passed last year, which requires schools to follow the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that currently recommends universal masking inside K-12 schools for everyone older than 2, regardless of vaccination status. That current law expires Aug. 1.
Youngkin, who was inaugurated on Jan. 15, ran much of his political campaign on parental rights in education. Sears said this is why he is sticking to his plan.
“What the governor is trying to do is to ensure that the parents make a decision on how their child will be educated. It is really as simple as that.”
She also called out his opponents who said Youngkin’s staff governs like authoritarians.
“This is nothing about authoritarianism”, Sears said. “If it were, he would say, ‘My way, my way. No other way. Absolutely.’ But God forbid that parents should be able to make the decision about how their children should be schooled. Imagine that. What a concept that parents should be given that choice.”
The battle in Virginia follows the national debate over masking in schools that continues to be a hot-button issue for Republican governors across the nation. Many Democratic parents believe that masks should still be in place in schools, while many Republicans believe that they should be optional.
Sears said although it might take some time for the legal process to play out, she said the state will follow the court’s ruling.
“We are a country of laws, and we respect and appreciate the law,” she said.
She continued, “In the meantime, what he has said in no uncertain terms is, ‘Follow the directive of your local school board. If they’re going to keep masks in place, then follow that. If they have decided to remove the masks then follow that.’”
Sears also cleared up her comment in an interview with Fox News over the possibility that Youngkin would withhold funding for school districts if they wouldn’t comply with his order.
“What I said at the time is that it’s possible, I don’t know that he can do that. He’s got a lot of different resources that he can use, I don’t know that he can do that.”