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Tamaqua school district continues to defy mask mandate, despite threat of legal action

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TAMAQUA, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The Pennsylvania Department of Education is firing back at a school district in Schuylkill County for disobeying the governor’s mask mandate.

“Everyone agrees with it. They don’t have to wear a mask. It’s their choice,” said senior Derek DeAngelo.

Tamaqua Area High School students spoke out Friday morning about their school district ignoring a state mandate, not forcing them to wear masks. One student says he’s proud of his school for sticking up for what he believes is right.

“I’m proud of them. Most of the kids are too. They’re just pretty tired of it. It’s cool to think Tamaqua did it. I’m proud of them for doing it,” said DeAngelo.

The state, however, is singing a different tune. Education secretary Noe Ortega recently sent a letter to the Tamaqua Area School District warning them to stop defying the governor’s mask mandate.

“Failure to implement and follow the control measures under the order subjects a person, which includes you as a member of the governing board, to the penalty provisions of the disease prevention and control law of 1955. A violation occurs each day there is a violation and may be charged for each student or staff member attending the school,” Ortega said, “Please be aware that this letter serves as official notice to you that failure to comply with the mask order is a violation of law and imparts knowledge of both the applicable law and your organization’s noncompliance.”

Ortega was touring the new high school today in Plains Township and he says there have to be repercussions for ignoring a state mandate.

“The question has come up time and time again, how will it be enforced? Will there be liability? We think the biggest enforcement is the incentive for health, safety and a sustained school year. But, there’s liability when you don’t follow a mandate from the state. It’s important for us to reach out to folks who have blatantly defied the secretary of health’s order and we’ll continue to send those letters out to folks who do the same as well,” said Ortega.

Tamaqua Area School District could face a plethora of lawsuits, including personal liability relating to willful misconduct.

Dr. Ortega says it’s not too late to turn back now and start requiring masks. The school district refused to comment.

You can read the full warning letter sent to the Tamaqua Area School District from the PA Department of Health in the link below.

You can also track the current COVID-19 cases in the Tamaqua Area School District by click here.

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