NEW ROCHELLE, NY — While still encouraging students and staff to wear masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, City School District of New Rochelle administrators said on Tuesday they no have the authority to require masks in classrooms.
UPDATE: Tuesday evening, a New York Appellate Court Judge granted a stay of the earlier court ruling that blocked New York's COVID-19 face mask mandate. The emergency face mask order remains in effect while the case is appealed. New York Schools will be required to enforce the face mask rules.
"Yesterday, a State Supreme Court judge from Nassau County issued a decision determining that masks indoors, including in the school setting, cannot be required," school officials told families in Tuesday's notice. "The Governor is appealing the State Supreme Court decision. While we await review by the Appellate Court, we have been advised that, at this time, we do not have the legal authority to require masks indoors."
According to Monday's decision by Judge Thomas Rademaker, the law was "promulgated and enacted unlawfully by an executive branch state agency and therefore void and unenforceable as a matter of law."
The decision also said that it does not "opine on the efficacy, need or requirement of masks as a means or tool in dealing with the COVID-19 virus." The issue is only whether or not the rule was properly enacted, the decision said.
Meanwhile, the New York State Department of Education (NYSDE) sent a letter to districts, advising schools that they must keep mask requirements in place in a letter dated Jan. 24:
"The State Education Department understands that Nassau County Supreme Court has ruled that the Department of Health exceeded its authority in enacting the mask regulation, 10 NYCRR 2.60, in Demetriou et al. v. New York State Dep’t of Health et al. This regulation is the subject of conflicting decisions, insofar as Albany County Supreme Court recently upheld the regulation in Massapequa UFSD et al. v. Hochul, et al," the NYSDE wrote in the letter. "It is SED’s understanding that the Department of Health will appeal the Nassau County Supreme Court decision, which will result in an automatic stay that will unambiguously restore the mask rule until such time as an appellate court issues a further ruling. Therefore, schools must continue to follow the mask rule."
New Rochelle school officials said that while it believes its authority to enforce mask rules is restricted for the time being, the situation remains fluid.
"The school district, however, still encourages their use," the district told students and families today. "We thank you for your patience and will continue to monitor this changing situation and keep you up to date as we learn more information."