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Chester Co. Judge Allows Cases to Advance Against Two School Boards Over Mask Policies

Common Pleas Judge William P. Mahon permitted recall petitions against the West Chester Area School Board and Downingtown Area School Board to go forward. It is the first hurdle in recalling members of the two Chester County school boards over COVID mask requirements.

The school districts have 20 days to file their responses.

“We are pleased that the judge has ordered the West Chester School Board to file a response explaining why they should not be removed from office,” said resident Beth Ann Rosica, executive director of Back to School PA PAC. Her organization supports school board candidates who promise to avoid lockdowns and keep kids in school. “It shows that the claims made have, at least, some level of merit. Our position is that this is a legal question, plain and simple. Either the board members have the legal authority to mandate masks, or they do not.  We believe that they do not have the authority, and we hope that the judge agrees with us. We believe that is important to pursue this petition in order to hold the Board members accountable for their actions and to hopefully prevent our children from being forcibly masked again.”

Shannon Grady, who filed the petition against Downingtown, said that “the biggest challenge” was figuring out the rules since neither of the petitioners is a lawyer and they filed the petitions without legal counsel.

“We’re just moms,” said Grady. “It’s really encouraging that it hasn’t been thrown out. We’re optimistic.”

The petitions seek to remove the school board members for “neglect of duty, regarding imposing the mask mandates. The parents are “trying to hold (the board members) accountable.”

Grady said she is seeking justice for every child. By making children wear masks, “you are harming children,” she said. At public meetings, parents have spoken to the school boards, and “they ignore you.”

“I sent my district very amicable notices, and they did not respond,” she said. “The crux is you don’t have authority (to impose mask mandates),” she said since the state Supreme Court ruled the state Board of Health did not. “School boards don’t have that authority.”

Meanwhile, Downingtown Area School District spokeswoman Jennifer Shealey said, “Because this is a case that is currently in front of the courts, we are unable to comment at this time.”

Similarly, a spokesperson for West Chester said the district would not comment on “an ongoing legal matter.”

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Downingtown Area School District Election Case Appealed to PA Supreme Court

A Downingtown Area School Board election dispute may determine the standing of Pennsylvania’s law regarding mail-in ballot errors.

At issue is whether election officials should follow the letter of the law or allow some leeway in counting problematic mail-in votes. Sam Stretton, a lawyer for Area 4 Democrat candidate Rebecca Britton told Delaware Valley Journal he is appealing a divided Commonwealth Court ruling to the state Supreme Court.

“It’s a very important issue,” said Stretton. And it not only affects his client, but will clarify election law statewide. “In election law we lean toward a liberal interpretation to protect the right to vote. There’s no evidence of fraud.”

Not so fast, says Michael Taylor, who represents Republican candidate Margie Miller, who will be the winner without the six disputed ballots.

Taylor said that the Commonwealth Court panel has correctly “affirmed the decision of the Chester County Board of Elections to disqualify the six ballots.”

While a recent ruling had three different opinions, a majority of the judges ruled the ballots should be thrown out, he said.

“Our elections are the bedrock of our republic and must be governed by the rule of law,” said Taylor. “Every vote that is legally cast should be counted. That is what was done in this school board race, and Margie Miller is the new director to the Downingtown School Board. Margie has won the contest at the Board of Elections, the Court of Common Pleas, and now, the Commonwealth Court. However, we have sadly heard that Rebecca Britton will now ask the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to overturn the election.

“Ms. Britton’s decision to continue with these legal challenges does a disservice to the citizens of Region 4,” said Taylor. “DASD is in the process of deciding many major issues. Besides dealing with the surge in COVID, the school district is deciding whether to build a new school or refurbish others. Region 4 is not at the discussions or able to cast a vote while Ms. Britton continues with these legal fights. The Miller campaign is weighing its options.”

Miller said, “With only four votes separating my opponent and myself, this has been quite a journey and an education. I am a teacher, not a politician. My intention upon running was to be an advocate for our children and a voice for the residents of region 4. At this moment, there is no voice nor representation for region 4. With the election uncertified and being appealed at the State level, my constituents are left with no vote or say in any matters or plans pertaining to DASD. It is a case of taxation without representation. Although I receive correspondence and calls from constituents, I have to answer as Director-Elect. I encourage them to write to all board members as I am unable to speak for them at this time.

“I enjoy connecting and emailing with the people of Downingtown. Th1ey are very candid, concerned, and truly want what is best for our community,” she said. “They also thank me profusely for responding to them – they appreciate knowing that they are heard. The people of region 4 have spoken – I won in November, I won at the county level, and I won in Commonwealth Court. Patience is my mantra.

“I cannot wait to serve the residents of region 4,” Miller added. “I respect and thank the judges who have given their expertise and verdicts thus far. I respect and thank all of my many supporters who are eager to witness my swearing-in. I am confident this will come to fruition in a prompt manner.”

Britton declined to comment.



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