PRESS RELEASE: Joint Statement from Senators Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Petersen (D-Fairfax) on North
Updated: Jun 6, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Hannah Kowitz (Dunnavant)
Raphaël Debraine (Petersen)
Joint Statement from Senators Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Petersen (D-Fairfax) on Northam’s School Mask Mandate
HENRICO, VA - Today, Governor Northam issued a new public health order that mandates universal masking in all K-12 schools.
“Clearly the Governor agrees with me that Senate Bill 1303 does not in fact impose any mask mandate. If it did, he wouldn’t have had to issue his statewide mandate. His unpredictable and erratic decrees have created conflict and anxiety where school boards had mostly worked out the best approach for their communities. CDC guidance changes frequently and parents and schools are perfectly capable of following and adapting without threats and reversals by the Governor. Indeed, SB1303 was only needed because the Governor failed to act to open schools himself last school year. He completely disregarded science, evidence and even the definitive position of his own medical speciality Board, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),” said Dunnavant (R-Henrico).
"As a co-sponsor of SB 1303 and advocate for re-opening schools from the outset of the 2021 session -- when most elected Democrats were still opposed -- I take issue with the Governor's characterization of our Senate bill and his latest 'ordering' of children to wear masks. The entire purpose of the bill was to give local School Boards flexibility in adopting mitigation strategies. It did not give some super power to the Governor or his Health Commissioner, who have no role in managing locally-owned public schools. This simply compounds the culture of Executive overreach which dates back to March 2020, when the Governor ordered the schools to close in violation of the State Constitution,” said Petersen (D-Fairfax).
Following this press release, Senator Dunnavant received the following questions from a reporter.
"Why are you fighting this when children are showing up in hospitals and schools are closing in already-open districts/states where masks are not required?
Is legislative authority more important than children’s lives?"
Her response and statement to the question can be found below.
"I do realize what is outlined in the AAP's recommendation, and I note they do not mandate but recommend. I believe parents and schools are perfectly capable of following medical advice and making decisions best suited for their families without the state’s involvement.
Nonetheless, it is worth pointing out that last year the Governor did not follow the advice of AAP when he left schools closed.
He has also ignored the constitutionally guaranteed power of the localities over education by closing schools last year and by imposing a mandate now in effect contradicting his own earlier direction to those localities.
In fact, SB 1303 is only needed because of the contradictions his decisions have created for Virginia’s schools."