PA Supreme Court rules mask mandate as unconstitutional

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Tyler Mercer

The PA Supreme Court’s ruling has allowed many students to stop wearing masks at B-A.

Tyler Mercer, Staff Writer

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the mask mandate put in place by the Wolf administration was unconstitutional, opening the door for public schools to drop requirements that students and faculties wear face coverings to school.

State Health Secretary Alison Beam imposed the mandate in September without a disaster emergency put in place by the governor, which violates state law.  This court’s decision ended the mandate effective immediately and has allowed administrators around the state to create masking policies for their own district.

At B-A, administrators have returned to their initial safety plan for COVD-19 issued in August.

A letter from Bellwood-Antis administration was sent to families on Sunday that read, “As of this moment, the mask mandate is lifted in schools, however we are still mandated to follow contact tracing and quarantine protocols.  If a student is not masked or shielded, and within 6ft of an infected individual, contact tracing will occur.  Therefore, even if your child is masked, there is still a possibility they could be quarantined.”

The new masking ruling does not apply to public transportation, meaning students will still have to wear masks on buses on their way to and from school.

I am happy for people to have the freedom to choose to be maskless.  However, I believe that what we have been doing has worked.”

— Mr. Schreier

Since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, mask policies have been subject to constant change by Governor Wolf’s administration, leaving many wondering when another mandate will come into effect. Senior student Xander Shank was skeptical of the longevity of the ruling, saying “I think the decision will last until Christmas break.  The mandates have been very inconsistent this school year, so I expect the governor to enact another ruling.”

Bellwood-Antis High School principal Mr. Richard Schreier had mixed feelings on the decision.

“I am happy for people to have the freedom to choose to be maskless.  However, I believe that what we have been doing has worked and kept more kids in school,” said Mr. Schreier. “I hope the number of positive cases does not increase, but unfortunately I fear that our number of quarantined students will increase due to lack of masks.”

COVID cases in the state of Pennsylvania have been on the rise. Last week  the commonwealth experienced back to back days with more than 10,000 new cases. In Blair County, there were 197 new cases reported December 10, but the numbers have dropped since then.