The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday threw out a statewide mask mandate for schoolchildren inside K-12 school buildings and child care facilities, the Associated Press reported. The Keystone State’s mask mandate took effect in early September.
The justices upheld a lower-court decision that said Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf’s acting health secretary imposed the mandate without legal authorization.
“The decision will be left to the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, with respect to what to do with the implications of this order,” said Thomas W. King III, a lawyer for the Republican lawmakers, school districts, schools and parents who sued to challenge it.
“This is a great day in Pennsylvania for the rule of law,” King added. “The Supreme Court has proved that no one is above the law, and that includes the secretary of health or the governor.”
The justices upheld a Commonwealth Court ruling that Alison Beam, the acting state health secretary, lacked authority to require masks, did not follow state laws about enacting regulations and acted without a required existing disaster emergency declared by the governor in place.
The lower court found Pennsylvania’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.”
The lawsuit was brought by “Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre; state Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford; two religious schools; three public school districts; and several parents of schoolchildren,” according to AP.
The litigants argued that Beam’s directive excluded public opinions and left “the General Assembly unable to review the policy’s legality or necessity, and violated state law.”
The PA high court’s decision follows two recent state court rulings against mask mandates for schoolchildren.
A Missouri Circuit Court ruled late last month that school mask mandates and public health orders in the Show-Me state are invalid.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Tuesday ordered all school districts in the state to immediately repeal their mask mandates, and has since sent multiple cease and desist letters to school officials who refuse to comply.
And back in September, a Florida appeals court ruled in favor of Governor Ron DeSantis by reinstating his ban on mask mandates in the state’s public schools.
The decision by the First District Court of Appeals reversed a previous ruling by a Florida district court judge who found that the state did not have authority to ban the face-covering mandates.
“COVID tyrants have gotten used to using fear to control people,” Schmitt tweeted on Friday. “They don’t like it when people fight back. That’s happening now. Freedom will win.”
COVID tyrants have gotten used to using fear to control people.
They don’t like it when people fight back.
That’s happening now.
— Eric Schmitt (@Eric_Schmitt) December 10, 2021