Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa ban on school mask mandates

Heather Preston, left, is one of 11 parents suing Gov. Kim Reynolds over a ban on school mask mandates. (Photo courtesy of the ACLU of Iowa)

By Katie Akin, Iowa Capital Dispatch 

A federal judge has temporarily blocked an Iowa law that prohibited schools from instating mask mandates on students.

Under a Monday ruling by District Judge Robert Pratt, Iowa school districts may impose mask mandates on their students, staff and teachers. The decision comes after a disability rights group and several Iowa families sued the state, arguing that students with disabilities face “irreparable harm” when attending schools without universal masking. The lawsuit contended that prohibiting schools from requiring masks was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Pratt issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits the state from enforcing the law.

Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley said passing House File 847 was necessary to “return decision-maker power to parents.” Gov. Kim Reynolds promised to appeal Pratt’s ruling and “defend the rights and liberties afforded to any American citizen protected by our constitution.”

“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,” Reynolds said in a statement Monday afternoon.


Pratt wrote in his decision that it is in the public interest to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially “for the safety of disabled children.”

“Moreover, there is little harm to … permitting the individual public school districts to return to the way in which they were operating prior to [the law’s] passage by leaving a universal mask mandate to their discretion,” Pratt wrote.


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