Mask mandate temporarily reinstated for Perkiomen Valley School District

Plaintiffs argue that the school board's vote to remove the mandate violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A mask mandate will be back in place for the Perkiomen Valley School District in Montgomery County for at least the next two weeks.

A federal judge in Philadelphia ruled Tuesday in favor of the plaintiffs who were seeking a temporary restraining order after the school board voted 5-4 late last year to rescind the mandate, and make masks optional in schools beginning Jan. 24.

A hearing will be held on a preliminary injunction in 14 days.

Lawyers representing a group of parents and students filed the lawsuit under pseudonyms for fear of retribution. They argue that the school board's vote to remove the mandate violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Villanova University Law School professor Michael Moreland, who specializes in Constitutional law and is not affiliated with the case, explained there are several lawsuits similar to this one, with two currently in Western Pennsylvania.

He spoke to Action News on Tuesday to explain how removing the mask mandate could violate the federal disability act.

"This is a big claim on behalf of a lot of kids, immunocompromised kids, and their parents saying that universal masking is a requirement. Just giving them the option to wear a mask is an insufficient accommodation, and instead you have to require everyone else to require a mask if you are to accommodate their disability," said Moreland.

The attorney representing the school board did not want to comment to Action News, but argued in court the district has masks available for students and additional mitigation efforts.

He also stated as of late there has been a zero-transmission rate among students. But Carmen De Gisi, the attorney for the plaintiffs, pointed out the new policy only went into effect on Monday.

"So there's no timeline or statistics yet," De Gisi said. "We're pretty certain an optional policy will have a higher transmission rate."

Both parties agree that in-person learning is necessary.

In Pennsylvania it is up to school boards to make the decision. Governor Tom Wolf was stripped of his emergency powers by voters and cannot enact a school mask mandate.

Both parties will be back in court on February 4.
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