Wall Township, NJ, Schools May Defy Murphy’s Mask Order
A Monmouth County school district could defy Gov. Phil Murphy's mask order.
At a special meeting of the Wall Township School Board last night, Superintendent Tracy Handerhan confirmed the district had planned to make masking up voluntary for the new school year, then Gov. Phil Murphy announced his mask mandate.
In the end, school board President Ralph Addonizio tells the Townsquare News Network they will likely be forced to follow the state mandate, but are exploring all options.
Powerful photos of NJ parents protesting Murphy’s orders
During the meeting, several parents spoke out against the mask mandate. Handerhan mentioned at the end of the public comment period it was great to see "smiling faces" of students this summer.
One of the issues that arose during the meeting was what happens if a student, or a group of students, shows up to school without a mask. Would they be sent home? Would they be forced into a quarantine room? School officials say they do not have answers, and are awaiting further guidance from the Department of Education.
Last night's meeting came after school board president Ralph Addonizio sent a letter to Murphy saying his mask edict does not reflect the best interest of Wall Township Public Schools. Addonizio says the order also infringes on "home rule," or a town's right to make decisions in it's own best interest free from interference from the state.
"We as a board have had some parents tell us how masks are negatively affecting their children’s psychological and emotional well-being, as well making it harder to learn and concentrate," Addonizio wrote to Murphy. "Parents have expressed concerns over masking students for six hours per day.”
It is not clear what repercussions the district could face if they were to actually defy Murphy's order. Handerhan acknowledged the district is seeking legal advice on a variety of issues, including non-compliant students. She told parents this is uncharted territory, "We're going to have meet with our attorneys on this," she said.
Handerhahn also has been in contact with other superintendents who are also struggling with the mask issue. "This is not only a Wall issue," she said.
Addonizio told NJ.com he hopes the governor will ultimately rescind his mask order, so the district would make decisions based on what is best for Wall students. That could include, he said, school-specific mask mandates if there were a spike in COVID cases in a school or specific region of the district.