The ACLU of Iowa and 11 parents of minor children across the state with disabilities filed a federal lawsuit on Friday challenging an Iowa law that bans school districts from imposing mask mandates in schools.
In the last few days of the 2021 legislative session, the Iowa Legislature passed House File 847. House File 847 prevents local school districts from requiring anyone to wear a dace mask and was signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds. The law provides that “schools district[s] . . . shall not adopt, enforce, or implement a policy that requires its employees, students, or members of the public to wear a facial covering for any purpose while on the school district’s . . . property unless the facial covering is necessary for a specific extracurricular or instructional purpose.”
The lawsuit filed on Friday asks the district court to block the provision of House File 847 prohibiting mask requirement at school as a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The lawsuit states: “House File 847 interferes with school’s ability to comply with its obligations under federal disability rights laws and illegally forces parents of children with underlying conditions to choose between their children’s education and their children’s health and safety in violation of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.” The lawsuit also asks the court to order the state of Iowa to allow school districts to adopt mask mandates for their students and staff.
Iowa is averaging about 1,200 confirmed COVID-19 cases per day over the last week, and roughly a quarter of those were age 17 and under. About 5 percent of Iowa patients hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 infections as of last week were age 17 or below.
In late August, the US Department of Education launched investigations in five states, including Iowa, to determine whether statewide prohibitions on universal indoor masking are discriminatory against students with disabilities. In Texas, a disability rights group similarly filed a complaint against Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting government agencies from issuing a mask mandate.