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Federal Judge Extends Court Order Allowing School Mask Mandates

According to plaintiffs challenging Iowa's ban on school mask mandates, 11 school districts have already experienced more COVID-19 infections than the entire 2020-2021 school year.
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According to plaintiffs challenging Iowa's ban on school mask mandates, 11 school districts have already experienced more COVID-19 infections than the entire 2020-2021 school year.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pratt first ruled on Sept. 13 that schools must be able to require masks so that medically vulnerable students have equal access to in-person learning.

More than 20 school districts have put some form of mask requirement in place since the temporary restraining order was issued. According to court filings, that includes eight of the ten districts named in the lawsuit brought by a group of 11 parents who have children with health conditions that put them at a greater risk of severe illness from the coronavirus.

Attorneys for the families argued that an extension of the restraining order was justified given the number of districts that have begun to require masks.

They also cited a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus cases among school-aged children compared to last year. According to brief filed on Saturday, 11 school districts in Iowa have already recorded more coronavirus cases than they did during the entire 2020-2021 school year.

The state argued against an extension and claimed that allowing universal masking could in turn violate the civil rights of students who are harmed by wearing a mask.

Nicholas Doy of Muscatine testified in an affidavit that his son, who has a hearing disability, has trouble understanding his teacher when the teacher is using a mask.

Judge Pratt ruled that universal masking must still be an option for schools to protect the health of all students and extended the previous restraining order another two weeks to Oct. 11 when he will rule on a preliminary injunction against the state law. No appeals can be filed until that ruling is made.