U.S. Supreme Court declines to block Beshear’s order shutting Kentucky schools

The U.S. Supreme Court declined Thursday to block Gov. Andy Beshear’s order closing private and public schools to in-person classes, citing the fact that Beshear’s order expires soon.

“Under all of the circumstances, especially the timing and the impending expiration of the order, we deny the application without prejudice to the applicants or other parties seeking a new preliminary injunction if the governor issues a school-closing order that applies in the new year,” the ruling says.

Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented, arguing that Beshear’s order should be blocked.

The nation’s highest court responded to an emergency request made by state Attorney General Daniel Cameron and 17 private Christian schools to reopen their classrooms to in-person instruction.

Danville Christian Academy and other private schools, including four in Fayette County, filed a lawsuit over Beshear’s restrictions. Cameron, a Republican, supported the schools.

Cameron and the schools will be able to make another request to the Supreme Court if Beshear does not allow in-person classes to begin in the new year.

Beshear’s order said elementary schools not in the “red zone” could reopen Dec. 7 if they follow state guidelines. Counties in the “red zone” have 25 or more new daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. As of last Thursday, 113 of Kentucky’s 120 counties were in the red zone.

The private schools, with Cameron’s support, won a preliminary injunction Nov. 25 from U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned the judge’s ruling in Beshear’s favor.

In his dissent, Alito said the Supreme Court’s decision to deny the application had less to do with the merits of the case and more to do with timing.

“While I do not agree with the Court’s denial of the applicants’ request for emergency relief, no one should misinterpret that denial as signifying approval of the Sixth Circuit’s decision,” Alito wrote. “At this point, just a few school days remain before the beginning of many schools’ holiday break, and the executive order in question will expire before classes would normally begin next year. The Court is therefore reluctant to grant relief that, at this point, would have little practical effect.”

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