Republican state Sen. George Borrello, along with a private religious school and a parents' advocacy group, on Friday announced a lawsuit challenging New York's universal masking requirement for schools.
The legal challenge is the latest bid to overturn pandemic-related rules being put in place by Gov. Kathy Hochul's administration, which is also facing lawsuits stemming from vaccination mandates for health care workers.
“Unfortunately, and incredibly, with the appearance of the COVID-19 virus in late 2019, the basic principle of separation of powers has seemingly vanished,” said Corey Hogan, lead attorney on the case. “Throughout this country, the legislative and judiciary branches have stepped back and allowed the executive branch at all levels of government to assume sole control of all government functions when it has any association with the COVID-19 virus and taken fundamental decision-making away from the individual."
Mask rules for school buildings, regardless of a person's vaccination status, have stirred debate within school districts. Hochul last month announced New York would move through Department of Health regulations to put the universal masking requirement in place ahead of the start of the school year in New York as students and teachers return to the classroom.
A Siena College survey released this week found New York voters broadly support requiring masks in schools, 78% to 18%.
“The expansive emergency powers granted to our former governor for a year and a half established a troubling precedent of government overreach that is proving very difficult to reverse,” Borrello said. “The mask mandate for school children is a blatant example. In handing down this regulation, the Health Department exceeded its authority and is attempting to override the judgement of parents, many of whom are vehemently opposed to masking their children seven hours a day. If we don’t act, these dictates will continue, and eventually, there will be no turning back.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified the type of school joining the lawsuit.