Protest and lawsuit follow first day of Pa. mask mandate in schools

Coronavirus

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Wolf Administration’s mask mandate takes effect on Tuesday in public and private schools and daycares. Lots of parents are thrilled. Lots of parents are angry and some are going to court hoping to reverse course.

A handful of parents protested Governor Wolf’s mask mandate on the steps of the capitol. There are lots more parents like them across the state. Less visible perhaps. But they’re there.

“The governor said I will not get involved in this, you will make those decisions and after school has started the change has created a great deal of chaos,” State Rep. Jesse Topper (R- Bedford, Franklin, Fulton) said.

Topper is a State Representative and parent of two school-age kids. He signed on to a lawsuit arguing Health Secretary Alison Beam doesn’t have the legal authority to mandate masks in schools and daycares. “This is outside the realm of what the Department of Health is able to do under the Infectious Disease and Control Act of 1955,” Topper said.

To be sure, a large number of parents were relieved when Wolf stepped in and mandated masks when a majority of schools chose not to. Kids under 12 can’t yet protect themselves with vaccines. The CDC recommends face coverings indoors and so do most doctors.

“I want to get past this idea that just because a medical expert says something that automatically dictates public policy across the board because there are more considerations than that and the more local you get, the better those considerations can be made,” Topper said.

But Wolf insists the safety of kids during a pandemic is his top priority. And he insists his Secretary of Health can mandate masks. In a statement, his spokeswoman said, “The DOH’s authority is clearly outlined in existing law. We need Republicans to stop spending their time undermining public health and instead encourage people to get vaccinated.”

Topper is encouraging school districts to comply with the mask mandate Tuesday until the commonwealth court weighs in. Briefs are due in commonwealth court on Wednesday. Senator Jake Corman, also with two school-aged kids, also signed on to the lawsuit.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending on WKBN.com