The House Education Committee passed out a bill that would prevent school systems from imposing covid-19 face covering requirements. The bill also would restrict covid-19 testing requirements and quarantines.
House Bill 4071, titled the “Parent and Student Health Rights Act,” was approved by members of the committee with a show of hands, 18-6. It now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.
“As the lead sponsor of this bill, I’ve heard overwhelmingly from my district. I think it’s time to empower parents, empower individuals to start making these decisions. I urge passage,” said Delegate Jordan Maynor, R-Raleigh.
The bill would apply to grades kindergarten to 12. It notes that, “A parent of a student maintains the right to determine whether their child will wear a mask or face covering on school premises or during extracurricular activities.”
It specifies that no school, education institution or official may impose a covid-19 testing requirement on any asymptomatic or presymptomatic student or school employee.
And the bill says students and school employees cannot be required to quarantine or isolate unless a case of covid-19 is confirmed by a positive test.
The bill provides injunctive actions for parents, saying they may bring actions against schools or education institutions.
West Virginia has been experiencing a rising caseload of covid-19, fueled by the omicron strain. Of the 915 state residents in the hospital with covid-19, state data shows, 15 are pediatric cases.
Similar debates about the rights of parents versus safeguards by school systems are going on elsewhere. Virginia’s new governor, Glenn Youngkin, signed an executive order declaring masks to be optional in school systems. He now faces pushback from some of those school systems and by parents who are suing.
Some members of the committee spoke out against West Virginia’s bill.
“I have some concerns about my child going to school and Typhoid Mary being around the school and disseminating the covid,” said Delegate Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, a public school teacher.
Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, expressed concern about vulnerable people like students with disabilities or older citizens who are raising grandchildren.
“We have grandparents, great grandparents and great aunts and uncles raising these children,” Walker said.
Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said he understands some parents are upset over the measures put in place by school systems over the past two years.
“I think this bill goes way too far,” Doyle said.
“This bill, I think, takes too many decisions that ought to be made, particularly by public health officials, away from those officials. I think that is a danger.”