ERIE - The attorney representing Keystone School District believes the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health's order mandating the use of face masks in school is "legal and binding."
Jennifer Gornall of the Erie-based law firm Knox McLaughlin Gornall and Sennett, declined to provide specifics of what she told Keystone administrators and school board members, citing attorney/client privilege, but explained what the firm has told its many client school districts.
"The secretary of health's order is enforceable," said Gornall. "The voter referendum in May limited the governor's emergency declaration powers, but it does not infringe on the secretary of health's order."
Gornall said a school district that wants to challenge the secretary of health's order would need to do so by filing a lawsuit.
"And there is a lawsuit doing that it's been filed and it is pending right now," said Gornall. "Until that case is settled, the secretary's order is legal and binding."
Gornall said there are possible legal repercussions for school districts and individual administrators and school board members who ignore the order.
"There are definitely risks at the local level for not following the secretary's order," said Gornall.
According to the state Department of Education, school officials who fail to adhere to the order could lose the protection of sovereign immunity and may personally face lawsuits from those who may be affected by any official's attempt to ignore the order.
Failing to implement or follow the control measures may expose individuals to personal liability, the department's webpage states.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health will revisit the mask mandate in October.