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Families of special needs students say Virginia mask law violates their children's civil rights

Lawyers say despite state law, schools are required to follow the federal American with Disabilities Act

RICHMOND, Va. — A dozen Virginia families of special needs students are fighting the Governor’s move to make masks optional in schools. The Washington Lawyers’ Committee, the Disability Law Center of Virginia, the ACLU of Virginia and two private law firms have filed a joint suit on behalf of the families.  

WUSA9 is taking a closer look at what the lawsuit alleges.


The lawsuit argues that the governor’s executive order not only puts these vulnerable children in danger, but it also violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

RELATED: Virginia ACLU files suit to stop Youngkin's no-mask mandate on behalf of kids with disabilities

Attorney Banner said the students suffer from conditions like cancer, cystic fibrosis and other chronic lung diseases that make them more susceptible to COVID 19.

“Lifting the mask mandates, especially right now, during times where Virginia is still in high transmission of COVID prevents these students from being able to go to school and being able to play with their friends and really from being able to access their education,” explained Banner. 

Banner said the students wear masks in school but their doctors have all recommended that when they are in school, other people wear masks to protect them. 

According to the Department of Education memo on Protecting Students with Disabilities, the office of civil rights division enforces federal laws to prevent people with disabilities from being “excluded or denied benefits of participating from any program receiving federal financial assistance.”

“Regardless of the state law, or of the executive order, school districts across Virginia still need to be able to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” she said.

WUSA9 reached out to Governor Youngkin’s spokesperson Macaulay Porter for comment. She did not reply to this lawsuit but in the past has told WUSA9, “the governor does not view this as a pro or anti-mask debate, but rather a way to acknowledge parents know what's in the best interest of their children's health.”

RELATED: Fairfax County Public Schools announce what it will take to roll back masks, other COVID safety measures

RELATED: Virginia bill ending school mask mandates passes House, Gov. Youngkin says he'll sign

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