At the outset of the November 23 meeting of the Nazareth School Board, a member of the public and parent, James Cunningham, addressed the board to make sure they are aware of a court injunction that came down on November 17. The injunction directly impacts the way the public can comment and address board members. Cunningham said that it was a “great day” for the Nazareth community.
“Americans have the right to express their views at meetings,” he said.
The injunction, issued by U.S. District Judge Gene Pratter in response to parents at the Pennsbury School District suing because they felt their free speech was being restricted, says that certain parts of the school board’s speech policies were unconstitutional. Protected speech at board meetings now includes directly addressing board members or staff and does not require the speaker to give his or her address before being allowed to speak. The Nazareth Board said that they were aware of the injunction and sent their policies to their legal council to adopt and comply with the court order.
A motion to approve a new solicitor was passed unanimously. Attorney Alicia Luke of the Fox Rothschild Law Firm accepted the position and introduced herself to the public and board. Attorney Luke noted that she is familiar with the area and went to undergrad at Muhlenberg College.
After some routine motions and reports, the board discussed amending the agenda to vote on going back to the district’s original health and safety plan. Board member Denise Glaros made a motion to go back to the original plan but keep the updated quarantine amendment. The plan would make masks optional for students and would not force asymptomatic students to quarantine. After some brief public comment, both for and against mandated masking, the board adjourned for an executive session for legal advice from their solicitor.
After the brief executive session, the board returned to discuss the motion. Board members Ken Butz and Joseph Vasko voiced concern about an abrupt change and the possibility that a lawsuit by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro could force masking on December 5.
“You want to talk about the kids being political pawns? What if they have to mask back up after a week?” Vasko said.
Board Member Attorney Kathryn Roberts said that waiting until kids are vaccinated is a false premise going by what she hears in the community. She did not support the idea of waiting any longer to end mandatory masking.
Ultimately, the vote took place near the end of the meeting with Board President Linda Stubits voting yes along with board members Denise Glaros, Gregory Leh, Jodi Mammana and Kathryn Roberts. Board members Joseph Vasko, Ken Butz and Melissa Kalinoski voted against the motion. The motion passed to applause from the public in attendance. The Nazareth School District will return to their original mask optional health and safety plan as of November 24. Masking will still be required on all bussing in the district.
The next meeting of the Nazareth School Board will be December 14 at 7 p.m.