A judge said Beshear can't require masks in Ky. private schools. The governor's fighting back

Posted at 7:38 PM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-21 10:47:18-04

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear asked a judge Friday to dissolve a temporary restraining order against his executive order compelling all school districts — both public and private — to mandate masks in their buildings, the latest chapter in an ongoing back-and-forth over whether students should be required to cover their faces in the classroom.

The restraining order came after a group of parents with children attending Diocese of Covington schools petitioned the court to issue an injunction.

"My son came home, and he was kind of beside himself," said Brandon Voelker, an attorney whose son attends Saint Joseph School in Cold Spring. "He had struggled during the day with his mask and a teacher getting on him."

Voelker said the governor's order created confusion among parents after the diocese had already established that masks would be recommended but not mandatory throughout its schools.

The decision to file for the injunction, he said, was born out of that confusion.

"It was more a parental choice, that the parents were told something, and we're hoping that would've been followed," he said.

After a judge granted the group the temporary restraining order, stating that Beshear could not apply the order to private school districts like the diocese, Beshear's administration quickly contested.

According to Beshear's office, the injunction "threatens the public health and safety in the face of the skyrocketing cases of COVID-19 and its highly contagious delta variant."

Jason Glass, commissioner of education for the commonwealth, said Beshear signed the order to protect students from getting sick.

"Right now, my values and priorities are around protecting the health of our students," he said.

Despite the judge's ruling, Glass said, the order still applies to the state's public school districts.

"Today is no different than earlier this week," he said, adding that — in addition to Beshear's executive order, which will expire in 30 days unless he signs an extension — the Kentucky Board of Education last week passed an emergency regulation mandating that all public school districts require masks indoors.

"No one wants to be doing this any longer than we have to," Glass said. "And the fastest way that we can get through this is to get our community transmission rates under control."

A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 24.