The Butler Area School District has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education Noe Ortega, and Governor Tom Wolf in an effort to overturn the state’s mandates that canceled extracurricular activities and athletics.
Butler-based Attorney Tom King has filed the lawsuit, which claims the current mitigation efforts put in place Dec. 12 by the Governor and Secretary of Health violate the Pennsylvania constitution.
Another lawsuit was filed by two indoor waterparks alleging the same.
“In both instances, he’s exercising powers our clients believe he doesn’t have,” said attorney Tom King. In the school district lawsuit, he wrote: “The governor’s powers are not absolute, and he cannot act in a manner that violates the Pennsylvania Constitution and statutes.”
King filed the suit on behalf of Butler Area School District, as well as the school board and several parents, on Monday afternoon in Commonwealth Court.
The lawsuit alleges the school board — not the Pennsylvania Department of Education — should make decisions on when schools open and close.
The suit claims the governor has no authority to tell individual school districts how they should be run, and asks the court to reverse the governor’s mitigation order.
“The attestation requirements, the governor’s mitigation order, and the secretary’s mitigation order usurp the powers of the Pennsylvania Legislature because they suspend, modify, and are contrary to existing Pennsylvania law,” the lawsuit said.
The suit also alleges that the secretary of health is not authorized to close schools or limit in-person instruction, and the secretary of education has no power to enforce those orders.
“To the contrary, those powers are reserved for the boards of school directors as stated below,” King wrote. “The secretary of health’s attestation order and mitigation order are in violation of Pennsylvania law.”
That lawsuit asks the court to declare the shutdown orders unconstitutional and to issue an order that blocks the state from prohibiting their operation.
Wolf’s Administration intends to fight both lawsuits, saying the three-week mandate is meant to flatten the curve and save lives.