DES MOINES, Iowa — After a three-judge panel from Omaha’s 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reached its 2-1 decision to partially reinstate the ban on mask mandates, local schools acted quickly and the Iowa State Education Association reacted with devastation. “This will be a concern for educators across the state. Using this as a political maneuver or politicizing the use of masks is really not something that we think is the appropriate thing,” said Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek.
Eleven Iowa parents supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa challenged the initial ban because their children are too young to be vaccinated or have an underlying health condition that makes them extremely susceptible to serious illnesses from to COVID-19. “This decision ruled that the Federal Rehabilitation Act requires schools to provide universal masking when necessary as a reasonable accommodation so that students with disabilities who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 can attend school in safely,” said ACLU Iowa Chief Legal Officer Rita Bettis Austen. .
They argued that banning mask mandates discriminates against their children’s education and view the court’s decision differently. Disability Rights Iowa Executive Director Catherine E. Thompson said, “Today is a monumental day for our plaintiffs as well as all Iowans who have been forced to choose between sacrificing the health of their child or educational opportunities.
School districts represented by parents in the lawsuit can continue current mask mandates if they are already in place like Des Moines. The ACLU Iowa reads the ruling as most schools can have mask mandates if they choose, except for a few districts. The National Director of the ACLU’s Disability Rights Program, Susan Mizner, said: “In theory, it’s possible that we have a school in Iowa that can be very small without any children vulnerable to COVID and there , the mask mandate ban could apply.”
Hours after the ruling, school districts like Urbandale and West Des Moines interpreted the ruling as having to remove any mask mandates. The West Des Moines Community School District released a statement saying, “Today we learned that the preliminary injunction has been overturned. This means that the WDMCS can no longer require masks, effective immediately.
Bettis Austen said the interpretation just isn’t true: “It’s absolutely incorrect. West Des Moines, like all schools in Iowa, is required to follow federal law, and the court just ruled that it is a reasonable accommodation for students with disabilities under federal law.
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