Emails that were brought to light thanks to the work of parents in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which holds the state’s third-largest school district, reveal district leaders were aware state law was being violated when they kept students out of school after the 2019-2020 academic year.
An email sent by then-Central Bucks Superintendent John Kopicki in July 2020 pointed out that the school could not legally operate its classes online.
“Hybrid options and staggered schedule options are NOT legal as of today, absent a waiver or legislative change,” read the email.
Despite this acknowledged rule, the schools shut down regardless, The Federalist reports.
The outlet noted that while the Pennsylvania state legislature allowed the school districts to have students inside the classroom for less than the required 990 hours of the 2019-2020 academic year, the exception was not extended for next year.
The Bucks County School District ended up closing in-person instruction more than once despite not being approved to do so.
A spokesman for Pennsylvania Sen. Scott Martin, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, reportedly told The Federalist that schools who failed to meet their minimum legal obligation for classroom instruction can be met with a “significant financial penalty if they fail to get a waiver.”
“If there are violations of [the] 990 rule, that can influence whether schools get their reimbursements from the state,” he said in reference to a state rule requiring students to be in the classroom for 180 days, for 990 hours in secondary school and 900 hours in elementary school.
In June 2020, the director of the Bucks County Health Department put out a proposal for reopening classrooms that promoted a voluntary masking policy. This launched the teacher unions into action, as many representing those types of organizations were adamantly opposed to having students be taught in the classroom.
In reaction to the guidelines, Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Mideastern Region President Bill Senavaitis forwarded a letter to Bucks County Commissioners in August, calling for schools to enforce a so-called “social distance” of 6 feet, a length that is impossible to maintain in a traditional classroom.
“In addition to the health risks that 3 feet of social distance will undoubtedly cause, your guidance has caused confusion in Bucks County’s schools,” read the letter. “This is certainly understandable since the county guidance differs from recommendations issued by the state departments of Health and Education. The state has clearly recommended 6 feet of social distance in school.”
He also encouraged the state’s Democrat leaders to force school reopening rules rather than make recommendations.
8/6/2020, Askey wrote to the Bucks County Commissioners saying, “One of the key reasons I continue to do this is because, without state directives, county governments like yours as well as many school districts are simply
ignoring the state guidance and making their own rules.” pic.twitter.com/G99jSeinkC
— Megan Brock (@MegEBrock) October 9, 2022
State bureaucrats have reacted to parent pushback regarding draconian Covid protocols by stonewalling requests for public records and even taking those who request them to court. National Review issued a report on Bucks County’s conduct in the legal system that can be found here.