Cases & Deals

Virginia parents obtain injunction against mask mandate in Loudoun County public schools

Clients Colin Doniger, Kristen Barnett, Heather Yescavage

Jones Day assisted Virginia parents in successfully challenging the Loudoun County School Board’s mask mandate, which required public school students to wear masks throughout the school day regardless of their parents’ wishes. In January 2022, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin — in consultation with state health officials — found that such mask mandates had infringed parental rights and caused physical, mental, and developmental harm to children without clearly reducing the transmission of COVID-19. The Governor therefore issued Executive Order 2, which required that Virginia’s public schools allow parents to decide for themselves whether their children would wear masks throughout the school day. Despite the Governor’s order, the Loudoun County School Board voted to maintain its mask mandate, and students who did not comply were barred from school and threatened with suspension.

Seeking to exercise their parental rights, three parents represented by Jones Day — Kristen Barnett, Colin Doniger, and Heather Yescavage — filed suit and sought emergency relief in the Loudoun County Circuit Court. The suit alleged that the School Board’s mask mandate violated Executive Order 2 and a Virginia law requiring schools to provide in-person education, exceeded the Board’s lawful authority, and was arbitrary and capricious. Because the parents were invoking the Governor’s order, the Commonwealth of Virginia intervened in the case. On February 16, 2022, Jones Day argued, alongside the Solicitor General of Virginia on behalf of the Commonwealth, at an injunction hearing that lasted more than four hours and required the parties to address multiple novel issues of state constitutional and statutory law. Less than an hour after the argument ended, the Circuit Court ruled for Jones Day’s clients from the bench, adopted Jones Day’s arguments in full, and enjoined the School Board from enforcing its mask mandate. As a result, beginning the next school day, parents of Loudoun County public school students were able to exercise their rights to decide whether their children wear masks throughout the school day.

Kristen Barnett, et al. v. Loudoun County School Board, No. 22-546 (Loudoun County Circuit Court)