#childsafety | Pa. court throws out school mask order



A state court has thrown out an order by Pennsylvania’s acting health secretary that requires masks inside K-12 schools and child care facilities.Commonwealth Court sided 4-1 with the ranking Republican in the state Senate and others who sued to challenge the masking order from Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Alison Beam that took effect in early September as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The masking order remains in place for now because Beam has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, according to the Wolf administration. Thomas King, a lawyer representing the group of parents who were suing says he’s researching to see if that is true.”My advice to school boards would be to listen, to consult with your own solicitor and follow their legal advice, and so the issue is whether the appeal to the Supreme Court constitutes an automatic stay,” King said.Commonwealth Court judges said Beam’s mandate didn’t comply with laws about reviewing and approving regulations and was adopted without an existing disaster emergency declared by the governor.The state’s disease control law does not give health secretaries “the blanket authority to create new rules and regulations out of whole cloth, provided they are related in some way to the control of disease or can otherwise be characterized as disease control measures,” wrote Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon for the majority.She said the judges “express herein no opinion regarding the science or efficacy of mask-wearing or the politics underlying the considerable controversy the subject continues to engender.”Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday announced he would return authority over masking decisions to local school districts in January.A spokeswoman for the governor released the following statement: “The Secretary of Health’s authority is clearly outlined in existing law. The Department of Health has directed counsel to file an appeal today. Filing of the appeal will immediately stay the Commonwealth Court’s decision.”Given the appeal, today’s ruling doesn’t impact current implementation of the school masking order.”Districts make changesFollowing the court’s decision, some Susquehanna Valley school districts have already announced they’re making mask-wearing optional.Donegal, Hempfield and Warwick school districts in Lancaster County said they are returning to optional face coverings.York Suburban School District in York County is also making a change. The district is reverting to the health and safety policy that was in place when the mask mandate took effect.Masks will still be required at elementary schools and the middle school, but they will be optional at the high school.WGAL spoke to some parents about how they felt about the court decision that threw out the mask mandate.”As a parent, I’d like to make the choices for my kids. And that’s really what it comes down to is being able to make the choice for my kids and not being told that this is what you have to do, no matter what,” Natalie Dennis said.”I think it’s laughable that we don’t listen to science and that we should maintain a mask mandate even after the vaccinations,” Joseph Bushey said.”I’m in favor of letting the school districts and the parents make that decision. It really should be up to them to begin with,” Kevin Holzer said.All York Suburban students will have to wear masks on school buses.

A state court has thrown out an order by Pennsylvania’s acting health secretary that requires masks inside K-12 schools and child care facilities.

Commonwealth Court sided 4-1 with the ranking Republican in the state Senate and others who sued to challenge the masking order from Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Alison Beam that took effect in early September as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The masking order remains in place for now because Beam has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, according to the Wolf administration. Thomas King, a lawyer representing the group of parents who were suing says he’s researching to see if that is true.

“My advice to school boards would be to listen, to consult with your own solicitor and follow their legal advice, and so the issue is whether the appeal to the Supreme Court constitutes an automatic stay,” King said.

Commonwealth Court judges said Beam’s mandate didn’t comply with laws about reviewing and approving regulations and was adopted without an existing disaster emergency declared by the governor.

The state’s disease control law does not give health secretaries “the blanket authority to create new rules and regulations out of whole cloth, provided they are related in some way to the control of disease or can otherwise be characterized as disease control measures,” wrote Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon for the majority.

She said the judges “express herein no opinion regarding the science or efficacy of mask-wearing or the politics underlying the considerable controversy the subject continues to engender.”

Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday announced he would return authority over masking decisions to local school districts in January.

A spokeswoman for the governor released the following statement: “The Secretary of Health’s authority is clearly outlined in existing law. The Department of Health has directed counsel to file an appeal today. Filing of the appeal will immediately stay the Commonwealth Court’s decision.

“Given the appeal, today’s ruling doesn’t impact current implementation of the school masking order.”

Districts make changes

Following the court’s decision, some Susquehanna Valley school districts have already announced they’re making mask-wearing optional.

Donegal, Hempfield and Warwick school districts in Lancaster County said they are returning to optional face coverings.

York Suburban School District in York County is also making a change. The district is reverting to the health and safety policy that was in place when the mask mandate took effect.

Masks will still be required at elementary schools and the middle school, but they will be optional at the high school.

WGAL spoke to some parents about how they felt about the court decision that threw out the mask mandate.

“As a parent, I’d like to make the choices for my kids. And that’s really what it comes down to is being able to make the choice for my kids and not being told that this is what you have to do, no matter what,” Natalie Dennis said.

“I think it’s laughable that we don’t listen to science and that we should maintain a mask mandate even after the vaccinations,” Joseph Bushey said.

“I’m in favor of letting the school districts and the parents make that decision. It really should be up to them to begin with,” Kevin Holzer said.

All York Suburban students will have to wear masks on school buses.

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