Judge Removes 5 School Board Members Over Mask Mandates

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | 3 months ago

school board

5 West Chester, Philadelphia school board members have been removed by a Pennsylvania judge. The board members in question refused to respond to a petition that parents served them asking for the permanent removal of unnecessary mask mandates. The board received the petition in February and did not respond. Because of their lack of ability to address the concerns and demands of parents, legal action was sought. 

This action was headed by Beth Ann Rosica. She is the executive director of Back to School-PA, an organization formed to take on the issues that school closures have created and fight for students’ rights by specifically, “holding school boards accountable.” Rosica admitted that 4 other Chester County school districts are facing pending petitions and that she is dedicated to ensuring that students “will never be forcibly masked again. 

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Masking in West Chester is currently optional, but the petition sent to school board members was created in that spirit. The school currently has a COVID-19 safety plan to return to masking should surges occur. Many schools across the nation have kept school masking policies against the wishes of parents and health care professionals. This issue has become a serious point of contention that many believe has contributed to drops in public school enrollment. 

The petition at West Chester Area School District was drafted by, Shannon Grady, a concerned parent who felt as if the school board was ignoring her and other families voicing concern over the long-term effects of masking, which have led to developmental delays, mental health issues, and a lack of interest in education altogether. The petition included a school code that would call for removing school board members should they fail to uphold their duty. The board was given 20 business days to offer their response, but none was given. 

Upon examining the case, County Judge William Mahon declared that the 5 school board members were in violation of the petition and ordered them to be removed. Their lawyers immediately filed a motion for the courts to reconsider. Their defense is that the courts were given the wrong timeline for responding to the petition. They have asked to be reinstated and given until next Tuesday to finally respond to parents who expressed concern 2 months ago. The board members in question, Joyce Chester, Daryl Durnell, Karen Herrmann, Kate Shaw, and Sue Tiernan are now heading to trial on Friday on the subject of reconsideration.

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 Parents and school board members have been clashing across the nation. Some educators and school board members have gone so far as to challenge parental rights in an effort to impose their own beliefs onto other people’s children. As many subjects involving education methods, health and safety rules, and other issues — which directly affect students and their families — are met with differing opinions on all sides, these clashes are not likely to be resolved quickly. 

How this case proceeds is of high interest. The West Chester Area School District superintendent, Bob Sokolowski, said that the school is currently preparing a statement on behalf of the school board members. Regardless, the parents await the court’s decision.