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Judge Removes 5 Members of PA School Board For Ordering Mask Mandate

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Five Democratic school board members have been fired after a Pennsylvania judge signed a petition saying they violated a code by voting to make it mandatory for students to wear face masks.

“Chester County Judge William Mahon ordered five of its nine members to be immediately removed from the West Chester School Board on Tuesday after they voted to make masks mandatory at the beginning of the school year. It kept the decision in place after the Pennsylvania state of emergency ended in June and two months after the state’s Supreme Court declared the mask mandate unconstitutional in December,” The Daily Mail reported.

“President Sue Tiernan, Joyce Chester, Kate Shaw, Karen Herrmann, and Daryl Durnell were all fired after they failed to respond to a February petition – brought forth by parent and former English teacher Beth Ann Rosica. She said the board had no right to force students to wear masks,” the report added.

“Once the Supreme Court declared that was unconstitutional … we implored our school board, we asked and asked and begged and pleaded and made comments to lift the mask mandate, and they refused,” Rosica said to WHYY News.

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“I did not believe they had the legal authority to mask our children. I want to ensure they will never be forcibly masked again,” she said in her petition, which was joined by fellow parent Shannon Grady.

Grady said that she “started the research on this back in August, when I realized the schools were going to continue to mask children,” as she read Pennsylvania’s Public School Code and tried to determine “do they actually have the authority” to require masks, “I found that loophole for removal of the school board.”

The law says that “any ten resident taxpayers” can file a petition with the Court of Common Pleas, and the court “shall grant a rule upon the school directors, returnable in not less than ten or more than twenty days … to show cause why they should not be removed from office.” The law also says that board members “shall have at least five days’ notice of the granting of the rule.”

Superintendent Robert Sokolowski sent a letter to parents to attempt to downplay the situation on Tuesday night.

“The decision states that the removal of the board members named in the petition was a ‘procedural result’ and does not address any of the allegations made in the complaint. Special counsel to the district is in the process of preparing a substantive response on behalf of those school board members named in the petition,” he said.

When the PA Supreme Court ended the mask mandate last December, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman celebrated the decision.

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“Today’s ruling is a victory for parents and communities whose opinions have been ignored by the Wolf Administration for far too long. I have said all along that parents and school boards are in the best position to respond to COVID-19 and keep our kids safe. I am grateful the Supreme Court agreed with this position and rejected Governor Wolf’s effort to take power away from the people,” he said.

“The ruling today is about much more than masks in schools; it is about preventing government overreach in general. The law clearly does not give any governor or any state agency the power to create orders out of thin air in the absence of an emergency declaration and outside the regulatory review process.

“This ruling means we will not have to deal with even more extreme, unilateral measures from the Wolf Administration that devastated our economy last year, including business closures and restrictions,” the state senator said.

“With today’s ruling, the power for parents and local leaders to make health and safety decisions in our schools is restored. That power comes with an obligation to review the facts and act in the best interests of our communities – which is why legislative leaders sent a letter to Governor Wolf yesterday to reconvene the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. I encourage all stakeholders to review the needs and conditions in our communities to make the best choices for our kids,” he said.

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