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Federal judge blocks Iowa school mask mandate ban, what’s next?

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 12:57 AM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Gov. Kim Reynolds says the state of Iowa will appeal a temporary restraining order by a federal judge that now gives school districts the ability take enforce mask mandates.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pratt issued the temporary restraining order Monday following a lawsuit by a group of Iowa parents of students with disabilities. The lawsuit argues Iowa Code section 280.31 violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The parents say their children were being denied equal access to education without universal masking because they are at higher risk for COVID-19.

“Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act essentially are the supreme law of the land because they’re federal law. So they kind of control state law,” Professor Mark Kende, Director of the Drake University Constitutional Law Center, said.

In May, Iowa joined seven other states in passing a law that prevents school districts from creating mask mandates.

On Monday, Gov. Reynolds announced plans to appeal the TRO. In a statement, Gov. Reynolds said:

“A federal judge unilaterally overturned a state law, ignored the decision by our elected legislature and took away parents’ ability to decide what’s best for their child. We will appeal and exercise every legal option we have to uphold state law and defend the rights and liberties afforded to any American citizen protected by our constitution.”

“The state, even if they’re not usually able to do this, is going to try and get this up the chain. You’ve got a court of appeals and the Iowa Supreme Court. They’re going to try and move this up as fast as they can,” Professor Kende said, “There’s going to be an attempt I suspect to get this to what’s called the U.S. Court of Appeals to the 8th Circuit, which is a higher court, very quickly. The U.S. Court of Appeals to the 8th Circuit is considered the most conservative court in the country.”

Depending on the outcome, the law could once again take effect.

“In some ways even though the Reynolds Administration lost the first battle, they probably think if they can get it into the 8th Circuit, they can win the war,” Kende said.

The judge’s ruling only applies to Iowa school districts. The law still prevents local governments, like cities and counties, from issuing mask mandates.

The U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is also investigating whether laws in five states discriminate against students with disabilities.

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