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California high court won’t consider O.C.'s challenge to school mask mandate

Students walking on campus at Irvine High School.
Irvine High School students on campus in September. The California Supreme Court denied a petition from the Orange County Board of Education, which had challenged the governor’s mask mandate for K-12 students.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The California Supreme Court declined on Wednesday to hear the Orange County Board of Education’s petition seeking to overturn Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide mask mandate for K-12 students.

Earlier this month, board members voted 4 to 0 to pursue the legal challenge, saying they believed the mandate “compounds the harm to California’s children previously caused by prior school closures and unwarranted masking requirements.”

Public health experts have said masks help decrease the spread of the coronavirus, but some parents have challenged masking in schools, saying it can have negative emotional effects on students and create a barrier for them to connect with their peers. The board does not have the authority to impose regulations over districts in the county.

“The Supreme Court rejecting this effort to stand in the way further reaffirms the state’s strategy” of relying on safety measures like universal masking to keep students safe at schools, said Alex Stack, the deputy communications director for Newsom’s office.

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“We are committed to working with school districts, other local governments, and other state officials to ensure schools implement this requirement to keep children and staff safe,” Stack said.

Robert H. Tyler, an attorney representing the Board of Education, said in a statement that while it is “always a long shot” to ask the state Supreme Court to take on a case, they believe Newsom’s masking mandate is “hypocritical and appears politically motivated.” Tyler said they will decide soon whether to continue a legal challenge to the mandate.

“It goes to show that once a politician gains this kind of authority, it’s going to take a significant effort to pry the emergency authority out of his grip,” Tyler said. “However, the court’s denial does not deter us from moving forward in the lower courts and we will decide our next step over the next couple days.”

The board petitioned the court along with an anti-vaccine activist group, the Children’s Health Defense. Previously, the board unsuccessfully sued Newsom to reopen schools for in-person learning.


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