Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa from banning school mask mandates

Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa from banning school mask mandates
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A federal judge temporarily blocked Iowa from banning mask mandates in local school districts.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt issued a temporary restraining order Monday in a signed opinion, writing that the state's law "substantially increases" the risk of several children with health conditions being infected with COVID-19. 

"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 wrote. 

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Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed a law in May that banned local school districts from requiring students or staff to wear masks.

She was sued in August by a group of parents of children with disabilities and health conditions, including asthma, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and sickle cell anemia.

The group argues the law violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act by excluding students with disabilities from public schools and equal access to education since they're at higher risk for COVID-19.

"A universal masking requirement instituted by a school is a reasonable modification that would enable disabled students to have equal access to the necessary in-person school programs, services, and activities," Pratt wrote. 

He added that "there is little harm" in permitting the individual public school districts to "return to the way in which they were operating" prior the law's passage by leaving a universal mask mandate to their discretion. 

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

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Reynolds vowed to appeal the decision.

"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."

Iowa's law is also being investigated by the Department of Education.

Reynolds is not the only GOP governor banning mask mandates in school. In Florida, an appeals court ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisAmerica isn't first — it's far behind — and studies point to Republicans Where election review efforts stand across the US Schools without mask mandate 3.5 times more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks: CDC study MORE's executive order banning mask mandates could stand after it was blocked by a lower court. 

In Texas, Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottTexas surpasses 4 million COVID-19 cases threshold The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats stare down 'hell' week Texas House Republican tests positive for coronavirus in latest breakthrough case MORE (R) is suing districts that defy an executive order forbidding them from mandating masks.