After being sworn in on Saturday, Governor Youngkin (pictured) signed nine executive orders and two executive directives. One of those nine orders reaffirmed the rights of parents in the upbringing, education, and care of their children:
"There is no greater priority than the health and welfare of Virginia's children. Under Virginia law, parents, not the government, have the fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of their children," that order states, adding:
"The parents of any child [in state schools] may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect [at the school]. No parent electing that a mask mandate should not apply to his or her child shall be required to provide a reason or make any certification concerning their child's health or education."
The order will be effective on Monday morning, January 24.
AFN talked with Richmond-based radio personality Jeff Katz for reaction.
"What Governor Youngkin's executive order [basically] says is that parents will be telling their particular school boards what they would like to do," Katz began. "School divisions will no longer be mandated to have children or staff or anyone else wearing masks – and it's going to be up to the individual school division."
Arlington Public Schools said it's sticking with its mask mandate, a decision that resulted in an "atta boy" from White House press secretary Jen Psaki. She used her personal Twitter account to say that she is an Arlington parent:
"Thank you to @APSVirginia for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant," tweeted Psaki.
Katz is convinced the pushback is entirely related to the fact that Youngkin is a Republican.
"Arlington County … came out even before Governor Youngkin's order and reminded everybody they were keeping their mask mandate," Katz noted, "and a couple of other school divisions in Virginia, [such as] the city of Richmond as well as Henrico County, have said they'll be keeping their mask mandates….
"But most parents throughout the commonwealth are not happy with [mask mandates] – and I think most parents, certainly that I've spoken to, are happy that Governor Youngkin is now returning that power to the people to make those decisions," he concluded.
Other executive actions by Youngkin included: prohibiting the teaching of "inherently divisive concepts," including critical race theory; terminating the Virginia Parole Board; rescinding a vaccine mandate for state employees; and establishing a commission to combat anti-Semitism.