Top state court strikes down school mask mandate
The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court has struck down a statewide mandate requiring children to wear masks in the classroom, arguing it was imposed without legal authorization by a state official who lacked the relevant authority.
Acting state Health Secretary Alison Beam not only lacked the legal authority to impose the mandate, but failed to follow state laws about enacting such regulations, including a requirement that an existing disaster emergency already be declared by Governor Tom Wolf, the court ruled on Friday, upholding a lower court’s ruling.
The challenge to the mandate had been filed by several state officials, two religious schools, three public school districts, and several parents of Pennsylvania schoolchildren. They argued it not only left the public unable to voice their opinions, but barred the General Assembly from being able to review whether the policy was necessary or even legal.
While the mask mandate was imposed in September, Wolf claimed last month he would return the authority to individual school districts in January over whether or not to require face coverings. Child care centers and early learning programs, however, would still be under state control.
The decision over whether or not to require children to mask up in the classroom will now be left up to each of the state’s 500 school districts. Before the mandate was imposed, just 59 out of the 474 Covid-19 plans submitted to the state Education Department in July had required masks for the 2021-22 school year.