State Supreme Court temporarily suspending Dane County order requiring all-virtual instruction for grades 3-12


MADISON, Wis. — The state Supreme Court has issued a temporary injunctive relief against Public Health Madison & Dane County’s emergency order which requires students in grades three through 12 to learn virtually.

Three separate lawsuits from families and religious schools were filed against Emergency Order #9. The court enjoined the order Thursday as it considers school closures, which grants the petitioners emergency temporary injunctive relief on restrictions to in-person learning.

Under the court’s order, county schools can open for in-person classes as soon as Friday.

The lawsuits have been consolidated into one, and the petitioners have 30 days to file a single brief to the court.

“In short, Petitioners are likely to succeed on the merits of their argument that the Order’s broad closure of schools in this case is not within the statutory grant of power to local health officers in Wis. Stat. § 252.03.”

The order falls on the same day public health officials reported a record-breaking number of new COVID-19 cases in Dane County.

In response to the decision, PHMDC Director Janel Heinrich said the purpose of the order was to protect the health of the community.

“We don’t have a vaccine. We don’t have an effective treatment. In the absence of other options, and a dramatic increase in recent cases, limiting gatherings and person-to-person interactions continues to be the essential part of controlling the spread of COVID-19,” Heinrich said.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi disapproved of the court’s order, stating the decision “will put kids and teachers back in group settings just as this pandemic hits a new peak in this community.”

Parisi went on to say that “Public Health’s order prioritized the safety and well-being of kids, parents, teachers, and the communities they call home. Tonight’s order will jeopardize those goals and may lead to more illness and needless human suffering.”

Earlier this month, PHMDC amended the emergency order to allow children with special needs to attend school in person.