A group of parents says they will file an appeal after a judge refused to block Gov. Phil Murphy's mask mandate in schools.

U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty agreed the mask mandate may be a hardship and may have some educational disadvantages, but ruled the mandate was not in violation of the New Jersey State Constitution.

The parents had been seeking an injunction, claiming forcing kids to wear a mask was both unnecessary and unfair, especially since mask requirements have been lifted for other indoor spaces like restaurants and houses of worship.

The judge refused to issue the injunction and ruled Murphy's mask mandate was a "rational" way to control the spread of COVID.

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On Facebook, organizers of the class action challenge expressed disappointment, but said they anticipated this ruling and were gearing up to continue to fight with an "immediate appeal." The post drew widespread support from other parents, many of whom have packed local school board meetings to protest the mask mandate.

Attorney Bruce Afran, who has been representing the parents, recommended filing an immediate appeal in the federal court system and directly with the US Court of Appeals. He urged supporters to "get ready for the second half of the marathon."

Gov. Murphy cheered the court's decision. A spokeswoman told NJ.com masking is "invaluable" to keeping schools open for in-person learning and "ensure that students can be in school safely and avoid closures of school facilities."

However, a growing number of schools are being forced to move back to remote learning due to a spike in COVID cases in school, despite mask rules and other mitigation efforts. Even if they test negative for COVID, students and staff that have been deemed a close exposure still need to quarantine for 14 days.

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