PITTSBURGH – Canon-McMillan School District’s optional mask policy will remain in place after a federal judge ruled against a temporary restraining order on Monday.
Though the case brought by parents in the district will continue to move forward, District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan stated he did not believe it will likely succeed as part of his reasoning for denying the injunction.
Ranjan, who serves in U.S. District Court’s Western District of Pennsylvania, said he did not feel there was enough evidence to suggest the school board did anything “procedurally inappropriate” when its members decided not to reconsider the district’s health and safety policy after multiple government agencies recommended universal mask wearing in schools, regardless of vaccination status.
He also said that he felt “it would harm the public interest” for him to overrule the decision of a democratically elected school board.
“I’m not accountable to the voters,” Ranjan said.
The district, along with Superintendent Michael Daniels, are being sued by a group of parents who claim the district’s optional mask policy infringes on the rights of their children, some of whom who are immunocompromised, to safely attend school.
Ranjan’s decision came after lengthy questioning of Daniels by Alex Saksen, the attorney representing the parents.
Saksen argued that the district failed to follow its own health and safety policy the school board adopted at a June 24 meeting when it did not reconsider mandating masks when the Centers for Disease Control and Pennsylvania Department of Health recommended universal masking in schools earlier this month.
On the witness stand, Daniels said the district was not obligated to mandate masks because state and federal agencies were only recommending universal mask wearing, and the school district is doing the same.
Following the hearing, Saksen said he was disappointed in the judge’s ruling, and that the optional mask policy will result in more sick students.
“This is one of the circumstances where nothing would make me happier than to be wrong,” Saksen said.
Attorney Joseph Cavrich, representing Canon-McMillan, asked the judge to dismiss the case. Though that did not occur, he said the judge made the right decision in not granting the restraining order.
“This is a tough situation that we’re dealing with,” Cavrich said. “We have parents who have legitimate questions and concerns on both sides of the aisle. It’s our job as attorneys to make sure that our clients are following the law, and the Canon-McMillan School District did so in this case.”