(The Center Square) – School districts in Iowa may now put back into place mask mandates – at least temporarily – following a judge’s ruling.
Mask mandates were outlawed in May when the governor signed House File 847.
In a 29-page ruling, Federal District Judge Robert Pratt, appointed by Bill Clinton, put the law on hold. That hold will last indefinitely pending further legal review.
Pratt based his temporary ban of the ban on what he called the Constitutional right to an education. That right, he said, is based on the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. That ruling stopped racial segregation in schools.
But Gov. Kim Reynolds is not taking the decision lying down.
She released this short statement on Monday, “Today, a federal 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. We will appeal and exercise every legal option we have to uphold state law and defend the rights and liberties afforded to any American citizen protected by our Constitution,”
The ban, actually a partial ban, left masks optional. And the law did not apply to riding on school buses.
Des Moines Public Schools issued a statement on buses after the law passed, "Masks will continue to be required on school buses in accordance with a federal order requiring masks on all public transportation."
The Des Moines school district is restarting the mask requirement for all students and staff indoors on Wednesday.
In mid-August, the Des Moines school superintendent, Tom Ahart, told the Des Moines Register he was prepared to defy the law if the school board approved remasking. He told the paper, “The right thing to do here seems pretty evident.”
The plaintiffs that went before Judge Pratt are a group of parents. The complaint asserted that the law wrongfully discriminated against their children. The students have disabilities and medical conditions that make them a higher risk of COVID-19 complications.
The Iowa branch of the American Civil Liberties Union represented the parents. ACLU attorney Rita Austen explained to WCCI News, “It’s wrong to require parents to expose their children to these risks just so they can go to school.”
The ACLU lawsuit was prompted by the Biden administration via the U.S. Department of Education. The department sent Iowa officials two letters in August suggesting that the law was discriminatory.
The second letter of Aug. 30 announced an investigation of Iowa by the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Education. The department also sent letters to Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah regarding their mask mandate restrictions. Additionally, the DOE also said they were considering action against Arizona and Florida.
Gov. Reynolds responded to the letter with a written statement. “Iowa was able to reopen schools safely and responsibly over a year ago. President Biden and his team know this, yet they’ve decided to pick a political fight with a handful of governors to distract from his own failures – Afghanistan, the border, inflation, and more.”
Reynolds responded directly to Biden as a result of his Aug. 18 “Memorandum on Ensuring a Safe Return to In-Person School for the Nation’s Children.” The memorandum ignited the sequence of events that led to the lawsuit and the judge’s restraining order.
Biden’s document praised states that were fully cooperating with the president, but “some State governments have adopted policies and laws that interfere with the ability of schools and districts to keep our children safe during in-person learning.”