Amistad Project Argues Before Court on Behalf of Parents, School Districts
Attorneys: Dep't of Health has claimed unlimited powers without proper legal procedures
HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 20, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Attorneys working with The Amistad Project presented arguments before the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania today contending that Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam drastically exceeded her authority by issuing a statewide mask mandate for all schools without promulgating a regulation empowering her to do so.
"This is another example of government abuse of police powers, which has been rampant throughout the pandemic," said Phill Kline, director of The Amistad Project. "Local school districts, in consultation with parents, should be the ones making these sorts of decisions, not an appointed bureaucrat acting at the behest of a governor whose own emergency powers were summarily stripped by voters in response to exactly this sort of overreach."
"The law is very clear that the secretary must rely on existing rules and regulations for authority to implement control measures in response to communicable diseases," said Tom King, lead attorney for Dillon, McCandless, King, Coulter, & Graham LLP. "The government has had more than enough time to implement such regulations since the start of the pandemic, but it has elected not to do so. Instead of going through the process of accepting public input, Acting Secretary Beam unilaterally claimed virtually unlimited authority to make up any rules she pleases."
Judges repeatedly pressed the government's counsel about this argument, at one point asserting that the department's mandate "meets all the criteria of what is a regulation."
The mandate was issued shortly after the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year after most Pennsylvania school districts elected not to impose universal masking policies. The order was issued by the Department of Health because a voter-approved constitutional amendment passed in the spring restraining the governor's ability to issue emergency orders without legislative input.
"There is no rule or regulation authorizing the mandating of face covers, in schools or otherwise," said Amistad Project attorney Tom Breth. "School districts made their choices, and Acting Secretary Beam didn't like their choices, so she took it upon herself to overrule them."
For more information about The Amistad Project, please visit www.theamistadproject.org.
SOURCE Amistad Project