Federal judge: Iowa schools can keep mask mandates until case is settled

By: - October 8, 2021 4:08 pm

Heather Preston, left, is one of 11 parents suing Gov. Kim Reynolds over a ban on school mask mandates. (Photo courtesy of the ACLU of Iowa)

Iowa schools can keep their mask mandates in place after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction against a state law which prohibited schools from requiring face covers.

Parents of children with disabilities sued the state in early September, arguing that the state’s prohibition on mask mandates was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pratt heard arguments in the case and issued a temporary injunction, effectively blocking the state law for two weeks.

Following that decision, over 20 Iowa school districts implemented mandatory mask policies.

Pratt extended the temporary injunction to last through Oct. 11, next Monday. Pratt’s decision on Friday to issue a preliminary injunction allows schools to keep mask mandates in place until the lawsuit concludes. Pratt notes in his decision that pediatric COVID-19 cases have “exploded since school started.”

“It is in the public’s interest to allow local public school districts to exercise their discretion to adopt universal masking policies in an effort to inhibit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the children in their schools,” Pratt wrote.

Rita Bettis Austen, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa, encouraged school districts that have not yet adopted a mask mandate to do so “in order to comply with disability rights obligations.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds appealed the injunction on Friday.

“We will never stop fighting for the rights of parents to decide what is best for their children and to uphold state laws enacted by our elected legislators,” Reynolds said in a statement.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.