Stating local health officials likely do not have legal authority to order closure of schools, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction late Thursday suspending the Dane County health agency’s August and September orders that forced all schools to close classrooms to in-person instruction in grades 3-12 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Multiple arguments — constitutional, statutory and administrative — are lodged against the order,” the 11-page ruling states. “While reserving the remaining claims for later disposition, we conclude that local health officers do not appear to have statutory authority to do what the order commands.”
The court issued an injunction against Public Health Madison & Dane County’s Emergency Order #9 and enjoined the agency from enforcing it. The court’s 4-3 ruling means Catholic and other private schools that challenged the closure order can open for in-person classes starting Monday. The injunction was effective Thursday, September 10. St. Ambrose Academy of Madison led a coalition of Catholic schools that in August petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court for an emergency injunction holding the closure order in abeyance. St. Ambrose raised nearly $109,000 using a crowdfunding web site to hire the Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders law firm to challenge the closing order.
St. Ambrose announced it will open for classroom instruction in grades 6-12 on Monday, September 14. “We are ecstatic that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has recognized the right of parents to choose how to educate their children. Our families know the risks; they’ve assessed them carefully and are prepared to go to great lengths to protect their kids,” said Joan Carey, executive director of St. Ambrose Academy. “But they also know that putting children in front of computer screens hour after hour and day after day and even month after month causes irreparable harm.”
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