Federal judge grants preliminary injunction, blocking Iowa ban on school mask mandates

Federal judge grants preliminary injunction, blocking Iowa ban on school mask mandates
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A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction Friday to continue to block Iowa’s ban against school mask mandates until a court has officially ruled on the law signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) in May, NBC News reported.

District Judge Robert Pratt granted the preliminary injunction Friday, just before a temporary restraining order against the law was set to expire next week, according to the Des Moines Register.

Pratt noted in his ruling “the important public interests at stake,” as he mentioned the “the current trajectory of pediatric Covid cases in Iowa since the start of the school year,” according to NBC News.

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Reynolds signed a law in May that prohibited schools from requiring staff and students to wear masks.

In August, a lawsuit was filed against the Republican governor by parents whose children have health conditions and disabilities such as sickle cell anemia and asthma, claiming that it violated the Rehabilitation Act and Americans With Disabilities Act. 

In mid-September, Pratt issued a temporary order to allow the state's school districts to issue mask mandates. The order was set to expire on Monday.  

In his ruling Friday, Pratt said that the preliminary injunction was an "extreme remedy." 

"The Court recognizes issuing a TRO is an extreme remedy, however, if the drastic increase 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," Pratt said in his ruling at the time.

Reynolds said on Friday that an appeal had already been filed in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to push back against the decision.

“We will never stop fighting for the rights of parents to decide what is best for their children and to uphold state laws enacted by our elected legislators,” Reynolds said in a statement.

“We will defend the rights and liberties afforded to all American citizens protected by our constitution,” she added. 

Rita Bettis Austen, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, urged schools who had not already adopted mask mandates to do so now and pressed for schools with the requirements to maintain them.

“With the continuation of this crucial injunction blocking HF847's masking prohibition, schools are able to require masking in order to meet the needs of kids in their district who have disabilities, including underlying conditions that make them vulnerable to serious illness, hospitalization, or death from COVID-19,” she said in a statement.

“They should continue those masking requirements they've put in place, and if they haven't already, take steps now to adopt masking in school in order to comply with disability rights obligations,” she added.