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In a stunning reversal, a Pennsylvania judge has reinstated five Democrats to the West Chester School Board only three days after he ordered their removal in response to a petition from parents that they lacked authority to order forced masking within the school.
On Friday, Chester County Judge William Mahon vacated his order after arguments from their lawyer that the board members believed that they had more time to respond to the petition, saying that they were “duly elected” and that he did not want to “cripple the school district.”
While the board members, Sue Tiernan the board’s president along with directors Joyce Chester, Kate Shaw, Karen Herrmann, and Daryl Durnell, have survived for now based on the reversal of the “procedural matter” of not meeting the deadline, they could still be ousted based on the petition.
Mahon who removed the quintet of authoritarian Democrats because their attorney did not file a timely response to the petition said that Friday’s hearing was not related to the petition’s merits on the mask mandate.
The petition which was written by parents Beth Ann Rosica and Shannon Grady came after the school board decided to keep the mask mandate in place after the expiration of the COVID emergency order and after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared the mandates to be unconstitutional.
“I did not believe they had the legal authority to mask our children. I want to ensure they will never be forcibly masked again,” Rosica said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Attorney Kenneth Roos who is representing the board members apologized for missing the deadline. “It was not our intent to disrespect the court,” he said, according to a Patch report.
Judge Mahon remarked, “Ms. Rosica, who is not a lawyer, understood it clearly,” to Roos, “Unfortunately for you, you did not.”
“Everyone is entitled to due process of the law,” the judge said.
The hearing drew over one hundred people to the Chester County Justice Center including supporters of the Democrat board members.
“We are very grateful to Judge Mahon for allowing us to get back on the school board and continue our good work for the students of the district,” said Tiernan after the hearing.
“I would rather win this petition on its merits rather than on a technicality,” Rosica told news outlet WHYY.
Some see a nefarious intent in the petition.
“Brian Harris, a retired elementary school teacher in the district, said the lawsuit was really about some community members’ coup to take over the school board,” according to Patch.
Democrat PA State Rep. Dianne Herrin was pleased by the about-face on the board members.
“I am heartened by Judge Mahon’s ruling to vacate his March 29th order and retain these five WCASD school board members in office,” she said. “This procedural controversy aside, the petitioner never claimed, nor does she have any grounds for, removing these honorable, duly-elected elected officials from office.”
“These board members and the vast majority of parents in this school district remain committed to ensuring the best possible public education for all children in our community – and that means telling the truth about our nation’s history and exercising our basic civic duty to each other, especially during these trying times,” Herrin added.
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