These cases, and undoubtedly others to come, only reinforce what has been the responsible legal advice – that the Department of Health order is lawful and enforceable and that school districts are obligated to make good faith efforts to implement the order.
Whether it be with school closures, virtual learning, or mask mandates, few districts have experienced the level of daily public outcry as has accompanied this pandemic.
According to a national survey, more than half of the country’s school districts are reporting either a “severe” or “desperate” driver shortage.
In the public controversy over the wearing of masks in schools, many legal theories have been advanced by non-lawyers and some lawyers as well questioning the legality of government-imposed mandatory masking requirements in light of the COVID pandemic. Some of the proponents of these theories advocate non-compliance as a remedy and some more cautiously suggest legislative fixes or legal challenges.
Schools should establish a process for parents to request an exemption from the mask mandate. Upon receipt of such a request, a school team must convene.
Today, Governor Wolf announced the Order of the Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health mandating universal face coverings within K-12 schools and childcare facilities.
We are accustomed to two exceptions that seem to roll off the tongue at the mention of mandates – medical and religious. These two exceptions, however, do not apply with equal force.
Unlike the Obama-era “Dear Colleague Letters” which were merely “significant guidance,” these new Regulations were enacted with notice and comment rule-making and applied uniformly with the force of law to all schools receiving federal funds of any kind, pre-K to vocational and postsecondary educational institutions.
Just as schools have had to adapt and react to those with acute symptoms of this deadly virus, they must also understand and react to members of the school community experiencing long COVID.
On July 16, 2021, PDE advised school entities to follow current CDC guidance.