Education

State Education Department says Norwin’s ‘masks optional’ move is a misinterpretation of court ruling – TribLIVE

Summary

The Norwin School Board’s decision this week to maintain the policy of allowing students the option of wearing a mask could cause school officials to “lose the sovereign immunity and may personally face lawsuits from those who may be affected by any official’s attempt to ignore the order,” the state Department of Education said Wednesday.

Failing to implement or follow measures designed to stop the spread of covid “may expose individuals to personal liability” and subject…….

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The Norwin School Board’s decision this week to maintain the policy of allowing students the option of wearing a mask could cause school officials to “lose the sovereign immunity and may personally face lawsuits from those who may be affected by any official’s attempt to ignore the order,” the state Department of Education said Wednesday.

Failing to implement or follow measures designed to stop the spread of covid “may expose individuals to personal liability” and subject them to the penalty provisions under the state’s Disease Prevention and Control Law, said Kendall Alexander, Education Department spokeswoman, in a statement.

“Practically, nothing has changed for the masking requirement. Some school districts are misinterpreting the ruling,” but the vast majority are abiding by it, Alexander stated.

The school board on Monday voted 7-2 to maintain a mask option policy that Superintendent Jeff Taylor had instituted Nov. 10. His decision came after a Commonwealth Court judge ruled Gov. Tom Wolf overstepped his authority by issuing a mandate that did not comply with rules for setting regulations and was adopted without Wolf declaring a disaster emergency.

Norwin was one of the school districts named as a defendant in a lawsuit opposing the mask mandate, district Solicitor Russell Lucas said.

Taylor could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

An automatic stay of the Commonwealth Court ruling took effect when the Wolf administration last week appealed the court’s ruling to the Supreme Court.

But Lucas told the school board he expected the stay to be dissolved. That did occur Tuesday, when Commonwealth Court ruled the mask mandate would be lifted as of Dec. 4.

Wolf had previously set Jan. 17 as the deadline for lifting his administration’s mask mandate.

Director Donald Rhodes, who voted against allowing masks to be optional, said following the meeting that he voted against the mask option because “I believe in what the state tells us to do.”

Director Brian Carlton, board president, declined to comment on his dissenting vote. The terms of both directors will end when the new board takes office in early December.

During public comments Monday at the board meeting, Shawna Ilagan, who will be sworn in as a school director in December, said that permitting a mask optional policy was the right decision. The results of a survey in the summer of district families showed overwhelming support for an optional masks policy.

The district should have permitted parents to seek exceptions to the mask requirement, Ilagan said.

But North Huntingdon resident Melissa Karabin, who is disabled, said the mask option policy is illegal and it violates her civil rights.

“You let everyone down,” Karabin said.

She said the district should keep the mask requirement in effect until Jan. 17.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Source: https://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/state-education-department-says-norwins-masks-optional-move-is-a-misinterpretation-of-court-ruling/