Des Moines, Iowa (Associated Press) – On Monday, a federal judge ordered Iowa to immediately stop enforcing a law that prohibits school boards from ordering masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Judge Robert Pratt said in an order signed on Monday that the law passed in May greatly increased the risk of COVID-19 for several children in poor health.
Pratt said he has reviewed data on the effectiveness of masks in reducing the spread of the virus and agreed to the recommendations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics on wearing masks in schools.
“Because the plaintiffs have stated that Section 280.31 of the Iowa Code prohibits wearing masks in schools, greatly increasing their risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19, and because of their various medical conditions, they are at risk of serious illness or death Increasingly, the plaintiff has proved that there is irreparable damage,” he wrote.
His order stated that Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo were unable to enforce new laws that prohibit local school districts from wearing masks for students, faculty, staff, teachers, and visitors at their discretion.
He issued a temporary restraining order, which took effect immediately. It remains in effect until the court issues a preliminary injunction order.
On September 3, 11 parents and Iowa Arc, an organization that defends the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, sued the state.
This dispute is one of several disputes in school districts across the country, where parents, school administrators and health officials are fighting for the implementation of the mask agreement. The U.S. Department of Education has launched civil rights investigations in five Republican-led states, including Iowa. These states have banned or restricted the requirement to wear masks in schools.
Reynolds said in a statement that the judge “unilaterally overturned a state law, ignored the decision by our elected legislature and took away parents’ ability to decide what’s best for their child.”
She said the state will appeal and “exercise all legal options we must comply with to uphold state laws and defend the rights and freedoms granted to any American citizen protected by our constitution.”
A few hours after the decision was announced, Thomas Ahart, the head of Des Moines Public Schools, stated that he will restore the mask regulations for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors of schools in the area from Wednesday. Des Moines School is the largest school district in the state, with approximately 33,000 students.
A spokeswoman for the Iowa City School District said the school board will meet on Tuesday to consider its options. Supervisor Matt Degner sent a message to the school district’s family, saying, “We strongly encourage all students and faculty members to wear masks to school tomorrow because we expect the school district to implement mask requirements for everyone in the school building. “
Pratt pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that, regardless of citizenship, denying school-age children to receive free public education is a violation of the U.S. Constitution, and it has been nearly 40 years.
He said parents “hope that the school district in Iowa will have the opportunity to comply with federal laws and ensure that every child is educated in the least restrictive and most integrated environment-without endangering their lives or safety.”
“Iowa’s mask ban not only makes it dangerous for disabled or immunocompromised children to go to school, but several pediatricians believe that it is also dangerous for healthy siblings to go to school in person because they have the virus back to the disability or immune function. The risk of low siblings,” Pratt said.
He said that since July, AAP has recorded approximately 3,500 new cases of COVID-19 among school-age children in Iowa, and some public schools in Iowa have had COVID-19 infection rates as high as last year’s total during the entire school year. 60% of the total.
In the most recent state public health update, children 17 and younger accounted for 29% of new coronavirus cases in Iowa. Fifteen children under the age of 17 were hospitalized due to COVID-19, and 12 of them were under the age of 11.
Lebo has stated that any areas that violate the law will be submitted to the State Board of Education and may lose funds.
Pratt also pointed out that after the U.S. Department of Education investigated whether the mandatory ban on masks in Iowa violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, parents filed a motion to stop enforcing the law, which discriminates against school-aged students with autism. child. Disability.
The parents in the lawsuit claimed similar violations of federal law. They claim that face-to-face learning is essential, and point out that Lebo stated in January 2021 that face-to-face learning is necessary because “students engaged in distance learning are falling behind academically”.
The parents of these children “therefore regretted that they had to choose to personally send their children to school with other children of the same age without wearing a mask, or swallow a smaller option that is not always available to them-distance learning. “Pratt said.
He concluded that the law appears to conflict with the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, “because it excludes children with disabilities from participating and deprives them of the benefits of public school programs, services, and activities.”