Pa. Supreme Court says school mask mandate is overturned

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Friday that Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam’s school mask mandate does not pass constitutional muster.

The high court agreed with an earlier Commonwealth Court ruling that Beam did not follow proper procedures in instituting the mask mandate in August. It vacated the mandate, meaning it is now up to local school districts to decide on masks for students, faculty, and staff.

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Back in August Secretary Beam mandate masking in all schools. That took effect on Sept. 7.

That prompted a lawsuit from Republican leaders, parents and some school districts. Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman was one of the people in the suit.

On Nov. 10, the Commonwealth Court ruled in favor of those parents, saying the health secretary did not have the authority to impose this mandate.

Friday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sided with them, eliciting celebration from those upset over the mandate.

“We have to follow the law and we can’t just circumvent it because we believe we know better and that we’re going to implement our safety procedures even though we don’t have the authority to do it. That’s what this case was about and I’m glad the court saw it that way,” Corman said.

He insists it’s about choice.

“I trust the school districts and the school districts will put health and safety plans together that will keep their kids safe the best they possibly can,” Corman said.

Governor Tom Wolf’s press secretary Elizabeth Rementer issued a statement about the decision, saying

“The administration’s top priority from the beginning of this pandemic has been and remains protecting public health and safety, including students and staff, to ensure in-person learning continues. We are awaiting an opinion on the decision, but the outcome is extremely disappointing. That said, the administration recognizes that many school districts want to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff, and we are hopeful they will make appropriate mitigation decisions moving forward.”

Dr. Nancy Mimm, a public health expert at Harrisburg University, says she recommends kids still mask, no matter what their district decides.

“I wish I could tell you no, but not right now. I can’t tell you no. They really do need to continue to wear their masks,” Mimm said “I’m just as tired as everybody else about wearing a mask, but it’s really one of the strongest tools we have in our toolbox besides vaccines.”

Especially as coronavirus surges in the commonwealth, health experts are pushing people to mask and get vaccinated.

That vaccine message is one Senator Corman is spreading as well.

“Look, my children are vaccinated. We made that decision. I would encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Most of the people who are sick today are unvaccinated people,” Corman said.

The Wolf Administration had previously announced it would end the mandate on January 17.

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