New Jersey resident Rachel Collins of Burlington County has filed a lawsuit against the New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan, the local Chesterfield Board of Education, the State Board of Education, and the Governor’s Executive Orders on mask and vaccine mandates for schools, claiming these Orders violate New Jersey law. Collins explains,
Our kids are being abused in clear violation of New Jersey’s settled education Laws. This Governor has zero power when it comes to our kids as per both our own statutes and state constitution. The fact that he is answering questions regarding School related matters is illegal. What we are doing is providing all parents and potential candidates for office across the state with a template on what to file and where to stop the masks before schools re-open September 8th because per the NJ Constitution the people hold the power in this state and are stronger than the Governor. The laws and statutes are actually very clear and I’m shocked that Murphy doesn’t even know the constitutional protections in place when it comes to our kids’ education. I’m just a mother fighting for my kids and everyone else’s too.
One wee problem: Her claims about state law violations are false and in New Jersey the people don’t “hold the power,” the Governor does.
In fact, New Jersey’s gubernatorial seat is the most powerful in the country. You can resent that, but it doesn’t make it illegal.
According to Article V of the State Constitution, the NJ Governor can declare a Public Health Emergency and State of Emergency to “protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of New Jersey,” which is what Murphy did first through Executive Order 103. While he ended the State of Emergency this summer, he issued Executive Order 251 in early August, which mandates :masking in the indoor premises of all public, private, and parochial preschool, elementary, and secondary school buildings, with limited exceptions.” Last week he issued Executive Order 253, which requires “all preschool to Grade 12 school personnel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 18, 2021 or be subject to COVID-19 testing at minimum one to two times per week.”
Collins says that’s an abuse of powers. However, according to Paul Josephson in the New Jersey Law Journal, Murphy has “extraordinary powers” that give him license to “commandeer” both public and private resources to respond to a declared emergency, including:
- all the available resources of the State Government and of each and every political subdivision of this State, whether of men, properties or instrumentalities, and
- any personal services and any privately owned property necessary to avoid or protect against any emergency subject to the future payment of the reasonable value of such services and privately owned property.
“Though most citizens will comply with these orders willingly, the governor’s order makes clear that compliance is not optional,” writes Josephson. “It shall be the duty of every person or entity in this State or doing business in this State and of the members of the governing body and every official, employee, or agent of every political subdivision in this State and of each member of all other governmental bodies, agencies, and authorities in this State of any nature whatsoever, to cooperate fully with the State Director of Emergency Management and the Commissioner of DOH in all matters concerning this state of emergency.”
Bottom line: Murphy can indeed require masks and vaccinations in schools.
Now, Rachel Collins’ lawsuit isn’t as apolitical as just “a mother protecting her children.” She’s closely connected with the GOP gubernatorial primary campaign of Hirsh Singh, a Trump-loving, anti-mask/vaccine conspiracy theorist whose Facebook page prominently features Collins, along with calls for “Biden to resign in disgrace,” along with claims that forcing children to wear masks is “child abuse,” vaccines make you more likely to catch COVID, and Trump would win if the election was held today.
Singh is free to believe what he wants. So is Collins. But Murphy does indeed have the “extraordinary” power to mandate masks inside of schools or anywhere else and to mandate vaccines for all school staff and eligible students.