Iowa mom sues Reynolds over law banning mask mandates in schools

By: - August 26, 2021 11:53 am

A Council Bluffs mother is suing Gov. Kim Reynolds over the law prohibiting schools from mandating face masks. (Photo by Getty Images)

A Council Bluffs mother is suing Gov. Kim Reynolds and the state of Iowa over the law prohibiting schools from mandating face masks as a protective measure against COVID-19.

Frances Mierzwa Parr is asking the court to order the state to issue a universal mask mandate for all students and school personnel, at least until districts can implement a plan to segregate mask-wearing students and staff from those who choose not to wear masks. The lawsuit, filed in Polk County District Court, also seeks temporary and permanent injunctions preventing the state from “issuing an anti-mask mandate in the schools of Iowa.”

In her petition to the court, Parr says her two children, both of whom are under the age of 12, were scheduled to begin first grade in the Council Bluffs Community School District this week, but she is home-schooling them instead due to concerns for their safety.

“Face masks are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 and the delta variant that could reduce the spread of the disease,” Parr’s attorney argues in court filings. “Students and school personnel are unlikely to voluntarily wear masks as evidenced by schools in states without mask mandates, such as Mississippi, Indiana and Georgia, being forced to return to virtual learning due to growing COVID-19 case numbers.”

The lawsuit argues that while the state law prohibits schools, cities and counties from imposing mask mandates, it does not prevent the governor or Iowa Department of Education from issuing a mask mandate in schools.

In an affidavit filed with the court, Parr states that scientific modeling suggests that without a mask mandate in place in Iowa, 315 of every 500 students will become infected during the first 107 days of the school year. That rate of infection, she says, would result in 175,386 new infections among Iowa’s elementary school students during those first 107 days. Hospitalizations, she says, would range from 350 to 3,332 students during that same period.

Iowa is one of nine states that prohibit schools from imposing universal mask mandates. President Joe Biden recently ordered the U.S. Department of Education to explore potential legal action against states that have outlawed  mask mandates in schools.

Reynolds has said the ban on mask mandates is consistent with her support of parental choice over government mandates.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said lawmakers are monitoring lawsuits related to the law against mask mandates and the state’s early termination of federal supplemental unemployment benefits.

“What they tell us is that Iowans feel that their governor and the Republican legislators haven’t been listening to them, because these are the things that they’ve been asking for,” he said. “These are the things they want. And so they’re having to take a legal route, because they feel that the legislative process hasn’t worked for them. And that’s pretty frustrating.”

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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