116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A federal judge this week temporarily barred the state from enforcing a law passed under cover of darkness in the Legislature in May prohibiting school districts from mandating the use of face masks by students and staff.
Among the plaintiffs who sought the temporary restraining order are the parents of children who live with disabilities or serious medical conditions. They contend the ban on mask mandates makes public schools unsafe for their children as the delta variant of COVID-19 spreads rapidly across Iowa. Universal masking is a proven strategy for mitigating that spread.
Banning schools from requiring universal masking, they argue, denies their kids access to an education guaranteed under federal laws protecting Americans with disabilities. U.S. Federal District Judge Robert Pratt ruled their arguments are sufficiently compelling to at least temporarily stop enforcement of the law.
That opens a legal window for school districts to sidestep the misguided law which flew in the face of sound guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health experts.
We welcome federal intervention, but regret that our Statehouse leaders brought us to this point. And now we urge every school district to take this opportunity to protect students, staff and potentially vulnerable people in their households at higher risk for serious COVID complications. Listen to the experts, not politicians pandering to a loud minority determined to undermine a sensible COVID response with misinformation.
The Cedar Rapids Community School District and the Iowa City Community School District have reinstated mask mandates. Linn-Mar’s school board voted Thursday to require masks for pre-K through sixth grade. The College Community School District Board will discuss the issue on Monday. The Marion Independent School District still is analyzing the federal ruling.
Denying access to public schools by disabled students is a serious matter, with legal implications of its own for districts who refuse to require masking.
Regardless of legalities, forcing these families to make an agonizing choice between a risky return to in-person learning or remote learning that fails to serve their children well is wrong.
Masking makes sense and can help control the spread of the highly contagious delta variant in schools. It’s a small sacrifice to make, especially to avert a tragedy for families with children suffering from serious health conditions. School leaders must summon the courage to do the right thing.
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