Decision striking Wisconsin’s ‘Safer at Home’ order won’t affect school closures

A Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that overturned most provisions in the order issued by the state’s Department of Health Services in April 2020 will not require students to return to the classroom just yet
By: | May 14, 2020
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A Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that overturned most provisions in the “Safer at Home” order issued by the state’s Department of Health Services in April 2020 will not require students to return to the classroom just yet.

Mike Thompson, the deputy state superintendent for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, noted that the state Supreme Court’s ruling in Wisconsin Legislature v. Palm, 120 LRP 15602 (Wis. 05/13/20), did not strike the provision in the April 16 “Safer at Home” order that requires all public and private K-12 schools to remain closed.

“That section of the Safer at Home Order, as well as the defined terms referenced by that section, remain applicable and enforceable,” Thompson wrote in an email posted on the Wisconsin Department of Education’s website. “Therefore, the [state Supreme Court’s] decision does not reopen schools, which remain closed through June 30th, the end of the current school year.”

Thompson stated that the state ED would continue to post updates as they become available.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court held in a 4-3 decision that the “Safer at Home” order, which prohibits nonessential travel, bans most private gatherings, mandates the closure of nonessential businesses, and authorizes fines and imprisonment as punishment for violations, is unenforceable. However, the majority stated in a footnote that its decision “does not apply” to Section 4(a) of the Safer at Home order, formally known as DHS Emergency Order 28.

Section 4(a) states that “public and private K-12 schools shall remain closed for pupil instruction and extracurricular activities for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.” It also allows schools to provide instruction through distance learning or virtual learning.

See also:
Chart: COVID-19: School closure and state assessment status


Amy E. Slater, Esq., covers special education legal issues for LRP Publications.