Newly-elected Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia began his term on Saturday with executive actions directed at education and the COVID-19 pandemic, which notably included a ban on critical race theory in public schools and a lifting of school mask requirements. Youngkin also issued executive actions terminating the Virginia Parole Board, rescinding a vaccine mandate for state employees and establishing a commission to combat anti-Semitism.
Youngkin became the first Republican to win statewide office in Virginia since 2009. He signed nine executive orders and two executive directives following his swearing-in, saying that the executive actions are steps to help launch “the work of restoring excellence in education, making our communities safer, opening Virginia for business and reinvigorating job growth, and making government work for the people, and not the other way around.”
The first executive order from Glenn Youngkin prohibits the teaching of “inherently divisive concepts,” including critical race theory, an academic concept developed by legal scholars to examine the ongoing effects of racism in American policies and institutions. Youngkin said in his executive order: “Political indoctrination has no place in our classrooms,”adding that “inherently divisive concepts, like critical race theory and its progeny, instruct students to only view life through the lens of race and presumes that some students are consciously or unconsciously racist, sexist, or oppressive, and that other students are victims.”
Youngkin also removed school mask requirements statewide. The governor’s order states that parents with children in public schools “may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program.” The order continued:“A child whose parent has elected that he or she is not subject to a mask mandate should not be required to wear a mask under any policy implemented by a teacher, school, school district, the Department of Education, or any other state authority.” The removal of a mask mandate in public schools prompted pushback from school districts outside of Washington, D.C. Following the governor’s executive order, Arlington Public Schools announced Saturday there would be no change to its mask requirements, with the face coverings still required for staff and students inside school grounds and on buses. Fairfax County Public Schools – the state’s largest school system — also said the district would continue to require universal masking. Alexandria City Public Schools also stated it will continue to require all individuals wear masks in schools, facilities and on buses.
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