PV Schools Seek to ‘Regain Authority’ In Mask Decision

COLLEGEVILLE PA – In a Wednesday (Feb. 16, 2022) message to Perkiomen Valley School District families, Superintendent Dr. Barbara Russell confirmed the district is continuing efforts to “regain its authority” to implement health guidelines of its choosing.

An earlier vote by its Board of School Directors to eliminate universal masking, and make masks optional, was indefinitely suspended Feb. 7. That’s when Perkiomen Valley lost a lawsuit challenging the school board’s plans, and was ordered by federal Judge Wendy Beetlestone to reinstate masking requirements.

Now district attempts to reverse or suspend the judge’s order reportedly are in the works.

The suit, brought by a group of special needs students, claimed their health could be put at risk if masking ended or became optional. Their attorneys successfully argued the board’s decision represented a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Beetlestone agreed, and issued a preliminary injunction against the board-proposed changes to district health and safety policies.

Russell wrote she considers it “imperative” for the district to comply with a judge’s order. She added, though, that Perkiomen Valley “is considering all avenues towards a resolution of this case.” She specifically avoided identifying its options, claiming “the district is limited in what information it can share when in litigation.”

The district intends to seek “an interlocutory appeal” of Beetlestone’s decision, according to a story published Tuesday (Feb. 15) in the Perkiomen Valley Patch. It will ask the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to intervene and end the injunction, Patch reporter Jon Campisi wrote, before an Eastern District Court hearing on the matter. It’s expected to be held during “late spring or early summer,” Russell noted.

“Interlocutory appeals are extremely rare,” the Cornell University School of Law suggests on its website, in part because legal arguments offered in such cases must meet a stringent three-part test. It’s not yet known if Perkiomen Valley, should it appeal, can surmount that barrier.

A Villanova University law professor interviewed by KYW Newsradio agrees the Third Circuit Court will likely be the forum where different outcomes in similar masking cases will be sorted out. School districts elsewhere in the state that sought to eliminate mandatory masking have, unlike Perkiomen Valley, won their arguments.

The Third Circuit might be expected to resolve inconsistencies between the differing legal opinions and outcomes, Professor Michael Moreland concluded.

Photo by Anton Matyukha via Deposit Photos, used under license