Federal Judge Blocks Enforcement of Iowa Mask Mandate Ban

A federal judge has placed a temporary hold on an Iowa state law that restricted school districts from implementing masking rules to address the continued spread of coronavirus in the state.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt sided with parents who had sued the state alleging their children with disabilities faced greater risks of contracting coronavirus due to an Iowa law, signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) in May, that limited school districts’ ability to require masks to be worn by students and staff at school. The parents argued that the new law violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, and that the limitations made it difficult for their children’s school districts to provide a safe learning environment.

In his opinion on the case, Pratt recognized that his issuance of a temporary restraining order on the law was “an extreme remedy.”

“However, if the drastic increase in the number of pediatric COVID-19 cases since the start of the school year in Iowa is any indication of what is to come, such an extreme remedy is necessary to ensure that the children involved in this case are not irreparably harmed,” Pratt added.

A district rule on masking “is a reasonable modification that would enable disabled students to have equal access to the necessary in-person school programs, services, and activities,” the judge stated.

Within hours of the ruling, some districts in Iowa began issuing new requirements on masking to start later this week. Des Moines Public Schools tweeted on Monday night that their masking requirements would begin on Wednesday, for example.

Reynolds also announced that her administration would be appealing the ruling made by Pratt.

“We will appeal and exercise every legal option we have to uphold state law and defend the rights and liberties afforded to any American citizen protected by our constitution,” Reynolds wrote on Twitter.

Iowa’s hospitalization rate and its daily average of new coronavirus cases are both lower than rates being reported across the nation. However, the state is starting to see an uptick in new COVID cases. In the past two weeks, the daily infection rate has gone up by 27 percent, a rapid increase compared to the rest of the U.S., which has seen cases go up by just 8 percent during the same period of time.