State Watch

PA school mask mandate struck down by state Supreme Court

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a K-12 school mask mandate imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) administration. 

The court did not release an opinion for the decision reached on Friday, but said one would come soon, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported

The state Supreme Court decision upholds an earlier ruling from the Commonwealth Court in November that ruled against a mandate that required students to wear masks indoors amid the pandemic. 

The lower court ruled at the time that Alison Beam, the acting state health secretary, did not have the authority to impose a mask mandate, acted without an existing disaster emergency enacted by the governor and did not follow state laws to enact regulations, according to WGAL.

The suit was originally filed by top Republicans in the state, two religious schools, three school districts and parents in Pennsylvania, according to WGAL. 

Wolf’s administration imposed the statewide mask mandate in September, and it remained in-place throughout litigation after it was challenged by parents and conservative groups.

A spokesperson for the governor told the outlet it was an “extremely disappointing” ruling and encouraged schools to keep masking despite the lifted health order. 

​​“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,” spokesperson Beth Rementer said, according to the Inquirer. 

“Masking is a proven and simple way to keep kids in school without interruption and participate in sports and other extracurricular activities,” she added. 

Republicans in the state celebrated the decision by the court on Friday. 

“We join the voices of millions of Pennsylvanians who are pleased to see our Commonwealth’s highest court agree that no unelected government bureaucrat should ever have the sole and unilateral authority to issue open-ended ‘orders’ — whether they focus on public health response or something else,” Republican state House Speaker Bryan Cutler and Republican House Majority Leader Rep. Kerry Benninghoff said in a joint statement. 

The Hill has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.

Tags Face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic Pennslyvania Tom Wolf

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