Legal ruling leaves New York schools grappling with mask mandates
Some New York school districts are abandoning mask mandates, hours after a Long Island judge ruled them unconstitutional on Monday.
Nassau supreme court judge Thomas Rademaker ruled that the state’s health commissioner lacked legal authority to issue her December 10 mask-wearing regulation, citing the state legislature’s decision to curtail the emergency powers bestowed on the executive branch during the pandemic.
New York governor Kathy Hochul filed a notice to appeal the ruling, but some districts warned they were making mask-wearing optional anyway.
“Effective tomorrow, masks will be optional in all Farmingdale schools for all students and staff,” said superintendent of schools Paul Defendini, in a letter sent to families.
“We are mindful of the possibility of additional court rulings based on the state’s anticipated appeal of judge Rademaker’s decision. That means that there is a possibility that the state’s mask mandate may be re-instituted tomorrow by the ruling of a different court.”
Other school districts that dropped the mandate include the Long Island districts of Bellmore-Merrick central high, Glen Cove and Massapequa.
In a letter to school districts, New York’s department of education said it believed the courts would “unambiguously restore the mask rule” and that schools should continue to require masks in the meantime.
Hank Grishman, superintendent of Long Island’s Jericho school district, said the district will maintain mask rules “until we receive further direction from the state and from our school district counsel”, in a Facebook post. In an e-mail from Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester County, superintendent William McKersie said there had been no changes to school policy. “To repeat, all staff and students are required to wear masks. No change to policy or procedure.”
Education officials in New York City, the state’s largest school district, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but mayor Eric Adams advised children and workers to keep wearing masks in a local television interview on NY1 on Tuesday.
The Lynbrook school district on Long Island and the Rochester school district also advised parents and staff that mask wearing would continue to be enforced.
“Today will be treated like any other day when the mask mandate was in effect,” according to a statement posted on Lynbrook’s website. “Thank you for your understanding of these late notifications as the mandate is tried in the courts.”
Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
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