Simply put, a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from masking in schools ran out of gas.
With Covid-19 now – for the most part – in the rearview mirror, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court deemed the case moot in its December 1 ruling.
On February 8 nine parents, individually and on behalf of their children, sought relief from masking requirements at six school districts in four Pennsylvania counties: Fox Chapel, Carlynton and Seneca Valley school districts in Allegheny County; Stroudsburg Area School District in Monroe County; Parkland School District in Lehigh County; and Pennsbury In Bucks County.
Throughout the pandemic, controversy surrounded the efficacy and necessity of masking directives prompting various legal challenges by lawmakers against Governor Tom Wolf and members of his administration including former Health Secretaries Rachel Levine and Alison Beam, then Education Secretary Noe Ortega, and others.
Parental irritation regarding masking requirements quickly trickled down to local levels causing school board meetings to become contentious.
In September 2021 “one school board director in Bucks County resigned after saying he received a death threat,” wrote reporter Chris Ullery in the Bucks County Courier Times.
Newsweek reported in November Pennsylvania would be lifting masking mandates in January 2022.
Twice, in November and December of 2021, Secretary Ortega advised school districts that while the Department of Education could not mandate masks, he urged schools to continue to following CDC guidance, reported radio station WESA in Pittsburgh.
Pennsbury School District announced its intention to discontinue masks toward the end of February.
“Superintendent Dr. Thomas Smith announced during Thursday evening’s school board meeting that the change to ‘masks recommended’ will be effective Tuesday, February 22,” reported Tom Sofield of Levittown Now.
In the court’s order, Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon wrote: “As a result of the School District Respondents having lifted entirely, or otherwise made optional, their masking requirements… Petitioners’ Application for Summary Relief is DISMISSED as moot.”
“The outright dismissal of this case is an important victory for school districts statewide,” said Peter Amuso, a lawyer who represented the Pennsbury district in the case. “It ends the one central attack on their basic rights as locally elected bodies to make decisions for their staff and students” based on the advice of health officials,” reported Maddie Hanna of The Philadelphia Inquirer.