Federal judge blocks state’s ban on school masking

Children make up 38% off all new positive cases in county in past seven days

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

DAVENPORT – A federal judge Monday issued a temporary restraining order against a state law banning local public school districts from issuing mask mandates.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Pratt, issued the TRO Monday writing that the immediate restraining order is necessary to protect the state’s children, specifically those dealing with disabilities.

“The Court recognizes issuing a TRO (Temporary restraining order) is an extreme remedy, however, if the drastic increases in the number of pediatric COVID-19 cases since the start of the school year in Iowa is any indication of what is to come, such an extreme remedy is necessary to ensure that the children involved in this case are not irreparably harmed.” wrote Pratt in the court’s conclusion.

The order prohibits Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo from enforcing the new law that bans local public school districts from utilizing their discretion to mandate masks for students, staff, teachers, and visitors.

Pratt also said in the ruling that there is little harm to the state in enjoining section 280.13 and permitting the individual public school districts to use their discretion in invoking universal mask mandates.

“It is no great burden for individual school boards to make these types of decisions for the children within their districts,” he wrote.

Pratt said the TRO is in order to preserve the status quo until the merits of the case are determined through a preliminary injunction.

Reynolds vowed to fight the ruling saying the state will utilize all legal remedies to overturn the ruling.

Reynolds signed House File 847 into law in May and is a part of Iowa Code 280.13.

“Today, 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,” she said in a statement. “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.”

Fort Madison Community School District Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater wrote in an email that the district will continue with current Return to Learn Protocols.

“Our current Return to Learn protocols will remain in place.  Masks will continue to be optional at this time,” Slater wrote.

Central Lee Community School District Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier, who’s been vocal about the state handcuffing the district’s ability to make decision for themselves, wrote Monday that he was just hearing about the ruling.

“This is the first I have heard of this. If true, we will likely receive guidance from the Department of Education, (Iowa Association of School Boards) and then use it to directly make decisions locally at Central Lee,” Crozier said.

Several additional Iowa and federal judges are currently considering similar court action, as are judges in other states. An appeals court judge in Florida has upheld an executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis banning mask mandates after a lower court had blocked the order.

According to the state’s coronavirus.iowa.gov tracking site 38% of all new positive cases in the past seven days through Monday, Sept. 12 are children ages 0 to 17. The next highest age grouping is 30-39 year olds at 20%

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s tracking site at the following link: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view|Iowa|19111|Risk|community_transmission_level, Lee County had 708 PCR COVID tests done for the past seven days through Friday Sept. 10. Of those 708, 21.6% came back positive.

The Iowa reporting site, which includes antigen testing in it’s total positivity rate for 7- and 14-day ranges, shows Lee County at 11.7% with its last county update on Tuesday, Sept. 7.

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