School district: 5-year-old refused to wear face mask, saying ‘my body, my choice’

By: - July 15, 2022 5:52 pm
Rear view of students sitting with hands raised in classroom

A 5-year-old girl who refused to wear a mask in kindergarten last year, told her school principal, “It’s my body, my choice.” (Photo by Getty Images)

A 5-year-old girl whose mother opposes mask mandates refused to wear a mask in kindergarten last year, telling her school principal, “It’s my body, my choice,” according to court records.

The girl’s mother, Kimberly Reicks of Ankeny, is suing the Ankeny Community School District over the mask mandate it had in place in 2020 and 2021. She also is asking the Iowa courts to expunge any record of her own recent arrest on separate charges of criminal mischief.

Reicks stood at the side of Gov. Kim Reynolds for the May 2021 signing of legislation that effectively outlawed mask mandates in Iowa schools. At the time, she held a sign that included a photo of her daughter, then 5 years old, that read, “My mask caused a staph infection on my face four times. My body, my choice. Unmask Iowa.”

In her lawsuit, Reicks alleges that after she led a protest, at a school board meeting, over the district’s mask mandates, the district retaliated against her by placing her child “in a plexiglass enclosure” at Northeast Elementary School.

The school district’s lawyers say Reicks’ version of what transpired is “selective and devoid of all context.” They allege that the day after Reicks led her protest against the mask policy, her daughter showed up for school and was asked to wear a mask or a face shield. “The then-5-year-old outright refused, stating ‘My mom will be mad at me if I wear my mask,’ and, ‘It’s my body, my choice,’” the district claims in court filings.

The district adds that its desk shields, which allowed the girl to remain in the classroom without a face mask or a face shield, were not a “plexiglass enclosure,” but single-panel, clear, vertical shields that had no back, no sides and no top.

“They were not enclosed and are much like the transparent barriers we grew accustomed to seeing in retail establishments to provide protection for cashiers and customers,” the school district told the court in a recent filing seeking dismissal of the case.

The district says that before the protest at the school board meeting, Reicks’ daughter, like other students attending Northeast Elementary School, wore a face covering from the beginning of the school year in August 2020, until early December of that year. That’s when Reicks requested a medical exemption and provided a doctor’s note stating her daughter couldn’t wear a mask due to perioral dermatitis.

The district then allowed the girl to sit at a desk with a district-supplied shield on it. When the girl later opted to wear a face mask, a school nurse checked her twice daily to ensure she wasn’t developing a rash, the district says.

Reicks’ position, the district has told the court, appears to be that the school was obligated to allow her daughter “to do whatever she wanted, based on nothing more than a 5-year-old’s say-so. Any elementary school teacher could speak to the absurdity of heeding such demands.”

A judge has yet to rule on the district’s motion to have the case dismissed.

Criminal case may be expunged

Separate from the civil lawsuit, Reicks was involved in a now-dismissed criminal court case that stemmed from her arrest by Ankeny police in March.

According to police records, at about 3 a.m. on March 6, Reicks and one of her adult daughters were seen by two people intentionally damaging the property of Brody Fleming at Fleming’s Ankeny home. After allegedly causing about $800 in damage to Fleming’s clothing and mattress, Reicks allegedly told the witnesses, “You can tell the cops I did this.”

She was later charged with third-degree criminal mischief, an aggravated misdemeanor, and a no-contact order was issued barring Reicks from having any contact with Fleming.

On June 28, a Polk County prosecutor asked the court to dismiss the case, noting that Fleming had asked that the charges be dropped. The case was dismissed and the no-contact order was lifted.

Earlier this week, Reicks’ attorney, Alan Ostergen of the Kirkwood Institute, a self-described “conservative public-interest law firm,” petitioned the court to expunge any record of the criminal case.

Reicks said Friday that Fleming is the ex-boyfriend of one of one of her adult daughters.

“They had broken up and I went to go pick her up at his house,” she said, adding that she didn’t damage any property as witnesses claimed. “This actually will be wiped completely off my record.”

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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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