Judge blocks Arkansas from enforcing ban on school mask mandate

An Arkansas judge on Friday blocked the state from enforcing a ban on school mask mandates.

Judge Tim Fox issued a preliminary injunction against the law, The Associated Press reported. He ruled against the law for several reasons, including finding that it discriminated between public and private schools.

Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Build Back Better items on chopping block Sunday shows - Buttigieg warns supply chain issues could stretch to next year Arkansas governor backs employer vaccine mandates MORE (R) signed Act 1002 in April, which prevented schools and government agencies from enforcing mask mandates.

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But on Tuesday, Hutchinson said he regretted signing the mandate, and has now pushed the state legislature to overturn part of the law that prohibits schools from mandating masks.

“I signed it for those reasons that our cases were at a low point. Everything has changed now. And yes, in hindsight I wish that had not become law,” he said at a news conference.

Two lawsuits were filed against Hutchinson this week seeking to invalidate the law.

Two parents filed the first lawsuit on Monday asking the court to rule the mandate unconstitutional, according to court records.

The second suit was filed Thursday by the Little Rock School District and the Marion School District. According to a local ABC affiliate, the Marion School District reported that it had 839 students and 10 staff members quarantining due to coronavirus.

Friday’s ruling also comes a day after the Arkansas legislature failed to advance two bills that would have amended the law to allow local school districts to impose masking requirements.

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Hutchinson called a special session of the legislature to consider the measures, both of which failed to advance out of committee, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The governor applauded the ruling.

"While the Arkansas General Assembly did not amend Act 1002, my objective has been achieved by the court’s decision today of Judge Fox who ruled that Act 1002 is unconstitutional. This ruling provides flexibility for school districts to make decisions on how to best protect their students," Hutchinson said in a statement.

Updated at 4:33 p.m.