A group of Pennsylvania parents and Republican state lawmakers filed a lawsuit on Sept. 3 challenging the school mask mandate imposed by the administration of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and seeking an injunction against the order.
The plaintiffs sued Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam in Commonwealth Court, arguing that Beam didn’t follow state law in issuing a mask mandate requiring children at public and private schools to wear masks. The lawsuit (pdf) also claims that Wolf’s administration circumvented Pennsylvania’s new limits on the governor’s emergency powers.
The governor’s spokeswoman dismissed the lawsuit as a Republican “effort at undermining public health.”
“The Secretary of Health’s order subjects healthy, non-infected teachers, children, students, staff, and visitors … to the wearing of face coverings,” the lawsuit states.
Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and state Rep. Jesse Topper, both Republicans, are the lead plaintiffs. The other plaintiffs include two private Christian schools—Calvary Baptist Church and Hillcrest Christian Academy—and parents from three public school districts.
The parents assert that they will send their children to school without masks since Beam’s order is illegal.
Beam’s executive order (pdf) goes into effect on Sept. 7, the first day of school. Students, teachers, and staff all will be required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.
The order allows for masks not to be worn when playing sports or exercising outside. It also allows for exceptions in which a mask “would either cause a medical condition or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition or a disability.”
The nationwide debate over mask mandates for schoolchildren is split sharply among partisan lines. Democrats strongly favor universal school mask mandates while Republicans oppose them. In Florida, the administration of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is withholding funds from school districts that run afoul of the restriction on mask mandates. In Illinois, the administration of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is threatening to “unrecognize” school districts that don’t impose mask mandates in line with state guidelines.
In Missouri, the state’s attorney general sued to declare mask mandates unlawful, citing, among other evidence, studies that show that masks impair learning, cause headaches, lead to lowered happiness, and hinder verbal and non-verbal communication, and other negative effects.