Jefferson Co. won’t prosecute violations of school mask mandate

From staff reports

Jefferson County District Attorney Jeff Burkett on Friday said his office has been receiving phone calls from parents since the state-issued order of face masks in schools was issued Aug. 31.

“People are concerned about criminal penalties for failing to abide by the Department of Health’s order that is made possible by the Disease Control and Prevention Act as well as the Pennsylvania Administrative Code,” Burkett said in a news release.

“Please be assured that my office will not prosecute such violations under these laws and I am instructing the police departments in my county not to issue summary citations enforcing this order.

“I want to make one thing clear: No police agency in our county has shown any interest in filing such citations nor have I received any requests for guidance on how to charge such violations.”

However, he said, any form of violence, assault, threats, harassment, disorderly conduct and other breaches of the peace will not be tolerated.

“Those incidents will be investigated by the police and, if appropriate, will be prosecuted by my office,” Burkett said.

Burkett said he cannot speak to or give advice on the civil, administrative and regulatory ramifications of the state’s order.

“I have also been told that the order declared by the acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health was, unfortunately, also accompanied by threats of civil liability for administrators, schools and individual school board members,” he said.

“This order has put parents, students, schools, school boards, administrators and teachers into a very difficult situation, and I am mindful that everyone is struggling to do what they think is best.”