New Jersey parent coalition files appeal to overturn Murphy school mask mandate

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TRENTON, NJ – A group of 25 families filed an appeal late Friday in the Superior Court of NJ Appellate Division against Governor Phil Murphy and the State of New Jersey.  The appeal was filed in response to Executive Order (EO) 251, signed on August 6th, which mandates masking in the indoor premises of all public, private, and parochial preschool, elementary, and secondary school buildings, with limited exceptions.

The Executive Order is being challenged on the following grounds:

  • The Executive Order is unconstitutional in that it violates the separation of power clause of the New Jersey Constitution.
  • The Governor lacks authority to issue the Executive Order under the Disaster Control Act.
  • The Executive Order is unconstitutional in that violates the Parents’ and Children’s Substantial Due Process rights under the US and New Jersey Constitution. 
  • The Executive Order is unconstitutional in that violates the Equal Protection Clause of the US and New Jersey Constitution. 
  • The Executive Order is unconstitutional in that violates the Parents’ and Children’ First Amendment rights under the US and New Jersey Constitution.

A coalition of more than 1,400 parents from across New Jersey have been working with the nonprofit organization Jersey 1st to actively advocate against Executive Order 251. Of this group, 25 families joined together to challenge to Murphy’s Executive Order. Attorney Keri Avellini Donahue is representing the parents in court. She has taken on this case pro-bono acknowledging that as a parent she has experienced the effects of these types of mandates first- hand. “It’s time to return to normal routines without these burdens on our children,” said Donahue. “The response to the pandemic placed all of the burdens on the kids- it’s time to let them to be normal kids again.”

Gwyneth Murray-Nolan of Cranford NJ, one of the parents filing notes the inconsistency in this mandate. “Children are not wearing masks in any other venue in the State including restaurants, stores, and stadiums.” She goes on to point out that “Parents should be the only authority to make decisions and determinations on the best interests of their own children.”  

Behind the scenes, the non-profit Jersey 1st has been a partner in this effort, providing research, and organizational efforts. “When a frustrated group of parents reached out to Jersey 1st, we were happy to help with their efforts. The Governor overlooked the rights of parents when he signed this Executive Order, and we believe that ultimately parents know how to care for their children better than the government. What is most unfortunate is that the children seem to be the last priority and we want to change that narrative” said Jersey 1st’s President and Founder, Rosemary Becchi.

As September approaches, these families are determined to have their children resume school routines without mandates. According to Donahue, “The goal is to get the children back in school under pre-pandemic conditions with kids socializing and receiving the best education available. That is the best possible outcome of this effort.”