All eyes on Virginia as parents and school systems sue over mask-optional orders

All eyes on Virginia as parents and school systems sue over mask-optional orders

January 27, 20222 min read

Virginia has become the center of attention for lawmakers as seven school boards are taking Gov. Glenn Youngkin to court over mask-optional orders for students. A group of parents are also suing the new governor, who campaigned on ending mask mandates in public schools, and made it one of his first executive orders.

It’s a complicated and no doubt controversial stance – and to fully comprehend what’s going on and the political implications for both sides, media organizations like The Washington Post are contacting experts like UMW’s Stephen Farnsworth to help break it all down.

Fairfax School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky said in an interview Sunday that the lawsuit boils down to an issue of local control: “Can we make policies for our school system, or does the governor get to come and do that for us?”

Youngkin, Pekarsky added, “does not tell us what to do.”

Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington, said the twin lawsuits place significant pressure on Virginia’s court system to step in quickly to resolve the debate.

“In situations like this, where there is no middle ground and where neither side has any interest in backing down, only judges can be the necessary umpires,” Farnsworth said. “The sooner they do so, the better for all concerned.”

But nobody knows when that will happen.

This is a hot button topic, and the result of the lawsuits may have national implications. Dr. Stephen Farnsworth is a sought-after political commentator on presidential politics. He has been widely featured in national media, including The Washington Post, Reuters, The Chicago Tribune and MSNBC. If you are a reporter covering the midterms and especially Virginia politics, simple click on his icon to arrange an interview today.

Connect with:
  • Stephen Farnsworth
    Stephen Farnsworth Professor of Political Science and International Affairs

    Dr. Farnsworth has spent decades researching how media and politics intersect. Check out his website at

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