Sue Wolf over game limits, says Central York board member

Central York School District Superintendent Michael Snell speaks during a special school board meeting at the high school Tuesday, January 21, 2020. The school board and Snell were presenting research and taking public comment regarding changing the start of the school day. Bill Kalina photo

A Central York school board member on Monday said the district should file a lawsuit against Gov. Tom Wolf over mandates limiting the number of spectators at high school sporting events.

And a majority of his colleagues were open to exploring the move. 

Central York board member Joesph Gothie's comments came the same day a federal judge concluded much of Wolf's COVID-19 response — including his limits on businesses and the size of public gatherings — was unconstitutional. 

"The wall has cracked," Gothie said Monday night.

More:Wolf's emergency orders unconstitutional, federal judge rules

The York-Adams League — which includes York County's school districts — had canceled a vote Friday that would have determined new guidelines on spectators and advised districts instead to wait on a bill that would put the decision back in local hands.

But with local seasons starting, board members are facing pressure from parents to allow them into games.

More than half of the 30-plus public comments during Central's board meeting Monday pleaded for access for at least some spectators. Several commenters noted the district's football stadium holds 3,500, so even allowing 25% capacity would open 875 spots to fans.

Current restrictions from Wolf say that only 25 people can attend events that are inside and 250 are permitted to outside ones. That numbers includes players, coaches and anyone else directly involved in the game, severely limiting sports with big rosters.

Some districts have considered ignoring the mandate, prompting the league to urge them to not violate mandates before legislation — which passed in both chambers recently with a super majority — became law. Wolf has vowed to veto the legislation, which would give sole authority over limiting fans at athletic events to local school districts. 

More:Wolf predicts sports veto will survive; Y-A officials pause for politics

More:Some Pa. schools aren't waiting for state decision; they're allowing fans at football games

Gothie on Monday, however, said he wanted to get the wheels in motion on litigation, if necessary, and asked his administration to discuss options with its solicitor.

From left, Richard Isaac, of Peach Bottom Township, takes a photo of attorney Joe Gothie, of Manchester Township, as he shakes hands with Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA), the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, during a meet and greet lunch with area residents at Round the Clock Diner in Manchester Township, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

School board President Jane Johnson said it would be fiscally irresponsible to thrust the district into a costly legal battle with the Wolf administration, especially with the pending legislation.

"I view this as nothing more than a political stunt," said board member Kyle King, who criticized Gothie for making an unnecessary motion to discuss litigation options with a solicitor when board action would not be required to do that.

Gothie did not deny the accusation and admitted his move was largely a symbolic gesture to signal to constituents they had been heard and that the district was serious about the issue.

Most board members were open to Gothie's proposal. Board member Vicki Guth even asked if the district should consider consulting with other districts for a class action lawsuit.

The other option, Gothie said, would be to ignore the mandate altogether since it would not be enforced — but Superintendent Michael Snell opposed that suggestion.

More:South Eastern mulls spectators at fall sports after Wolf's decision

"Let me say clearly, (Athletic Director Marty) Trimmer and myself are both supportive of spectators," Snell said, while adding that he did not want to violate his duty to follow state orders.

Board member Gregory Lewis agreed, saying, "the rebel streak in me wants to call this a protest and settle on the field a friendly strike," but that he did not want to open the district to legal and civil liability. 

A motion to authorize litigation, if recommended by the solicitor, was approved in a 6-3 board vote Monday. Johnson, King and board member Michael Wagner voted against it.