DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge Friday extended an order that will prevent state officials from enforcing a law that prohibits school districts from implementing mask requirements until a federal lawsuit challenging the law can be heard.
Judge Robert Pratt had earlier issued a temporary restraining order preventing Gov. Kim Reynolds and Department of Education Director Ann Lebo from enforcing the law Reynolds signed in May.
The order entered Friday issues a preliminary injunction that continues to prohibit the state from enforcing the law until the court case can be decided.
Lawyers for Reynolds and Lebo immediately filed notice of an appeal with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which could reverse Pratt's order or keep it in place.
Eleven parents and The Arc of Iowa, a group that defends the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, sued the state on Sept. 3. They claim the law substantially increases the risk of several children with health conditions of contracting COVID-19 and that it violates federal laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Pratt cited the current trajectory of pediatric COVID-19 cases in Iowa since the start of the school year and the irreparable harm that could befall the children involved in this case as reasons for the order.
He said many districts have enacted mask requirements since he entered the initial order.
“Again, the court recognizes issuing a preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy, however, given the current trajectory of pediatric COVID-19 cases in Iowa since the start of the school year, the irreparable harm that could befall the children involved in this case, plaintiffs’ likelihood of success on the merits, the grave harm to plaintiffs if Iowa Code section 280.31 is not enjoined, and the important public interests at stake, such an extreme remedy is necessary,” he wrote.
The dispute is one of several playing out in school districts nationwide, where parents, school administrators and health officials are battling over enforcement of mask protocols. The U.S. Education Department has opened civil rights investigations in five Republican-led states, including Iowa, that have banned or limited mask requirements in schools.
David Pitt, The Associated Press