By Samantha Hernandez, Des Moines Register
Masking in Iowa schools continues to be this week as school officials weigh how to handle a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit’s decision.
In May, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a ban on mask mandates that included school districts. A group of parents of students with disabilities and the ACLU of Iowa sued in September because they believed the law violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act by not providing equal access to education for students with disabilities.
A district court judge issued an injunction last year which allowed school officials to put mask mandates in place. Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education appealed the decision.
The question over masks in schools came to the forefront again Tuesday when a three-judge panel ruled school districts can continue to have mask requirements in place to protect students with disabilities. The decision also directed the district court judge to narrow the original ruling to school districts named in the lawsuit.
Here is what schools are doing following Tuesday’s court decision.
Iowa school districts that are keeping their mask mandate
Des Moines Public Schools, one of 10 districts named in the lawsuit, plans to continue its mask mandate, according to a district news release.
This is due to the portion of the ruling where the judges asked that the original “injunction blocking Iowa’s anti-mask law be narrowed to those ‘schools and districts’ attended by the children of parents who sued to stop the state’s mask ban,” the release states.
Ending the district’s mandate while cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant are so high could also lead to student or staff illness, and disruption to student learning and services, the district said.
Even before the injunction last year, Des Moines schools’ officials launched a wearing is caring campaign to encourage students and staff to mask up.
Iowa City Community School District, also named in the suit, has left its mandate in place.
These Iowa school districts are dropping mask mandates
Wednesday morning, Burlington School District suspended its mask mandate that has been in place since September. Marshalltown Community School District announced it was dropping its requirement Wednesday evening.
Ames, Urbandale, Cedar Rapids and West Des Moines school districts dropped their mandates Tuesday.
The decisions come even as state officials said they would honor the current injunction that allows school districts across the state to put them in place. Additionally, the ACLU believes before the lawsuit is settled, more schools will be required to have mask mandates.
Other suburban Des Moines school districts who dropped their mask mandates prior to Tuesday’s ruling include Ankeny. That school district dropped its mandate after a contentious school board election. Additionally, Southeast Polk Community School District’s mask mandate for elementary students ended at the end of December, West Burlington ended its mandate Oct. 7 and Johnston schools ended its mandate Nov. 29.
Indianola, Norwalk, Carlisle, Bondurant-Farrar and Waukee school districts did not have mask mandates in place during the 2021-22 school year.
Samantha Hernandez covers education for the Register. Reach her at (515) 851-0982 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @svhernandez or Facebook at facebook.com/svhernandezreporter.