Thursday, November 26, 2020

Wisconsin Supreme Court temporarily halts Racine Health Department's school closure order

From The Journal

RACINE — The Wisconsin Supreme Court has temporarily put a halt to the City of Racine Health Department's order closing all K-12 school buildings, set to got into effect on Friday. 

The Supreme Court's temporary injunction to the emergency health order came at the same time that the court agreed to take up the case challenging the order, even though it had not made the typical route through the local circuit court first.

The health order, announced Nov. 12, was meant to keep COVID-19 from spreading in schools during the upcoming holiday season, when some extended families are expected to gather even though local, state and national health officials have advised against it. There have been clear spikes in local cases of the disease after every major holiday since the pandemic began, said Racine's Public Health Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox. 

A group of local private schools, parents and advocacy groups represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty — a conservative nonprofit legal group based in Milwaukee — filed a petition to the Supreme Court challenging the health order on Nov. 19. 

The heads of multiple local private schools argued that with strict safety measures in place, such as masking and social distancing, COVID-19 was not spreading within their schools.

The Supreme Court has put the case regarding the City of Racine Health Department on hold until a decision is made in a similar case filed in Dane County, as WILL asked it to do in its petition. 

In September, the Supreme Court temporarily halted an order by Public Health Madison and Dane County that required virtual schooling for students in grades 3-12, after the order was challenged by a group of parents and private and parochial schools who are also represented by WILL. 

That case is set for oral arguments before the Supreme Court on Dec. 8.

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