A Pennsylvania judge ordered the immediate removal from office of five Democrat school board members in Chester County school district who voted to mandate masks at the start of the school year.
Parents filed a petition in February asking the Chester County Court of Common Pleas to remove the five board members since they voted to mandate masks in the school district last August 2021.
Beth Ann Rosica, the parent petitioner, argued districts have no authority to require all students wear masks under the Pennsylvania school code.
After Pennsylvania’s state of emergency first ended in June 2021, the board opted to continue requiring masks. It stood by that decision while the state reimposed a school mask mandate, and for two months after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared that mandate unconstitutional in December.
“Once the Supreme Court declared that was unconstitutional … we implored our school board, we asked and asked and begged and pleaded and made comments to lift the mask mandate, and they refused,” Rosica said. “When they refused, that is when we made the decision to file the petition.”
The strength of Rosica’s argument appears to have had little to do with its success, however.
In his order that the five Democratic members of the board be “removed from office,” Judge William Mahon wrote that his decision came after there was “no response” to the petition by the school district or its counsel.
Kenneth Roos, an attorney at Wisler Pearlstine LLP, which is representing the board members, told WHYY News Tuesday night that a motion to reconsider would be filed with the court.
The court ordered a hearing on the motion 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Chester County Justice Center.
Cont. from WHYY:
In the motion to reconsider filed with the court, a copy of which WHYY obtained Wednesday, the attorneys argued that the deadline for a response was actually April 4 and disputed the timeline used, which was based on the March 15 filing date of the petition to remove the school board members. The lawyers argue that the Pennsylvania statute in question gives the school directors no more than 20 days to respond. The motion asks that the court vacate the order, reinstate the school board directors, and allow the respondents until April 4 to file a written response to the petition.
District leaders and the apparently ousted school board members did not respond to requests for comment.
However, in a letter sent out to district parents Tuesday night, Superintendent Robert Sokolowski attempted to downplay any concern that the judge-ordered ousting of the board members would stick.
“The decision 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. 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,” Sokolowski said.