Citing timing, SCOTUS declines to allow in-person learning to resume in Kentucky

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a Kentucky Christian school’s plea to reopen for in-person learning, upholding a health order from the governor that barred in-person K-12 education in most areas until January.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s Nov. 18 executive order, which applied to both public and private schools, closed elementary, middle, and high schools in the state and ordered them to transition to virtual learning beginning Nov. 23.

The order allowed for elementary schools in “red” zones— counties with 25 or more new coronavirus cases a day— to reopen as long as they are following state public health guidance. Middle and high schools were not allowed to resume in person learning before Jan. 4.

Danville Christian Academy, a private school located an hour south of Lexington, sued over the order. Boyle County, where Danville Christian Academy is located, currently has a COVID-19 positivity rate of 113.6 cases per 100,000 residents, placing it in a “Red” designation.

A federal district judge ruled Nov. 25 that Beshear’s order could not apply to private religious schools because it infringed on their First Amendment rights. But on Nov. 29, a federal appeals court overturned that decision, upholding Beshear’s original order.

Danville Christian Academy asked the US Supreme Court temporarily to suspend the executive order while its appeal is pending. In an unsigned Dec. 17 opinion, the court declined to do so.

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