Ankeny mom appeals dismissal of mask-mandate lawsuit

By: - September 6, 2022 5:15 pm

After a judge dismissed her lawsuit challenging an Iowa school district’s mask mandate, an Ankeny mother is appealing that decision to the Iowa Supreme Court. (Photo by Jenna Ardell/Getty Images)

An Ankeny mother is appealing the dismissal of her lawsuit challenging an Iowa school district’s mask mandate.

Kimberly Reicks had sued the Ankeny Community School District over the mask mandate it had in place in 2020 and 2021. In her lawsuit, she alleged 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 argued Reicks’ version of what transpired was “selective and devoid of all context.” They alleged 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 claimed in court filings.

The district added 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.

Recently, Polk County District Court Judge Samantha Gronewald dismissed Reicks’ lawsuit.

“Reicks must show (the district) took adverse action against her because she engaged in protected speech,” the judge wrote in her decision. She noted that the district did not dispute that Reicks had engaged in protected speech when she protested the school district’s mask policy, adding that Reicks had failed to show she or her child suffered any adverse action in connection with her protest.

“When presented with the plexiglass shield as an option, (Reick’s child) giggled, smiled, and expressed feeling comfortable to learn,” Gronewald noted. “Thereafter, she participated in classroom instruction sitting at a desk with the plexiglass shield without issue.”

Gronewald also noted that Reicks had failed to show any causal connection between her protest at the meeting and the school district’s decision to utilize the plexiglass shield.

“There is also nothing in the record suggesting in a substantial fashion that (the child) was singled out,” or that the district’s decision to utilize the plexiglass shield was, as Reicks claimed, “highly unusual,” Gronewald stated in her decision.

Reicks’ attorney, Alan Ostergren, has since filed a notice of appeal with the Iowa Supreme Court.

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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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