A Pennsylvania judge ordered five school board members who voted at the beginning of the school year to make masks mandatory to be immediately removed from office. The action was the end result of a parent-filed petition to the West Chester Area School District this past February.
The petition was filed by Beth Ann Rosica, who currently serves as the executive director of the Back-to-School PA PAC. Rosica argued that under the Pennsylvania school code, districts have no authority to require students to wear masks. The board initially opted to continue requiring masks after Pennsylvania’s state of emergency first ended in June 2021. It kept the decision in place two months after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared the mandate unconstitutional in December.
Judge William Mahon ruled that the West Chester school board members had failed to respond to Rosica’s petition in accordance with a 10-day deadline. The defendants argue that they actually had 20 days to respond as opposed to 10.
The five ousted board members were all Democrats. A lawyer representing them, Kenneth Roos, said they submitted a motion for reconsideration of Judge Mahon’s order on Tuesday. The group anticipated it would be accepted for filing Wednesday morning.
District Superintendent Dr. Robert Sokolowski pushed back on the ruling, arguing that the judge’s actions were not consistent with the complaint. The decision from the Court of Common Pleas “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,” Sokolowski said. “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.”
Rosica said Wednesday that the petition was necessary to prevent the implementation of future mask mandates if COVID-19 cases go back up. “I was thrilled with [Mahon’s] order,” Rosica said. “I did not believe they had the legal authority to mask our children. I want to ensure they will never be forcibly masked again.”
Judge Mahon gave both Rosica and the school district seven days to submit recommendations for replacement board members.