Judge Robert Pratt, a Bill Clinton appointee, claimed in an order signed Monday that the law passed in May substantially increases the risk of several children with health conditions of contracting COVID-19.
Pratt said he has looked at data on the effectiveness of masks to reduce spread of the virus and agrees with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics on mask wearing in schools.
“Because Plaintiffs have shown that Iowa Code section 280.31’s ban on mask mandates in schools substantially increases their risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19 and that due to their various medical conditions they are at an increased risk of severe illness or death, Plaintiffs have demonstrated that an irreparable harm exists,” he wrote.
His order said Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo cannot enforce the new law banning local school districts from using their discretion to mandate masks for students, staff, teachers and visitors.
He issued a temporary restraining order to be in effect immediately. It remains in effect until the court issues an order for a preliminary injunction.
Eleven parents and The Arc of Iowa, a left-wing activist group that lobbies on behalf of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, sued the state on Sept. 3.
Reynolds said in a statement that the judge “unilaterally overturned a state law, ignored the decision by our elected legislature and took away parents’ ability to decide what’s best for their child.”
She said the state 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.”
Pratt pointed out that it’s been almost 40 years since the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that, regardless of citizenship status, denying school-aged children a free public education violates the U.S. Constitution.
However, most accommodations afforded by the education system—including remote, homebound education when necessary—have not impacted the rights of other students as the mask mandates do.
The demands have largely been pushed by powerful teachers unions as another bargaining chip to leverage in their political toolbox, even though they create extra work for the affected teachers who are obligated now to enforce the mask policies.
Pratt claimed the parents “want Iowa school districts to have the opportunity to comply with federal law and ensure that each child receives an education in the least-restrictive and the most-integrated environment—without jeopardizing their lives or safety.”
However, it is unclear what the basis was for the judge’es projection of leftist talking points onto Iowa parents.
“Iowa’s mask mandate ban makes it not only dangerous for disabled or immunocompromised children to attend school, but several pediatricians opine it is also dangerous for healthy siblings to attend school in person because they risk carrying the virus back to their disabled or immunocompromised siblings,” Pratt said.
Fewer than 500 US children have died as the result of the virus. Roughly 97% of COVID deaths have been those age 45 or older, all of whom are vaccine eligible.
In fact, exposure to the virus may provide a positive effect for non-immunocompromised children by enabling them to develop COVID antibodies in their system that have proven, scientifically, to be more effective than the vaccines.
Nonetheless, leftists have used increased case rates as justification for a massive power grab at every level from the White House on down, with many blue states and red-state Democrat officials using them as a pretense to illegally revise voting procedures during the 2020 election.
Pratt claimed the AAP has recorded about 3,500 new COVID-19 cases among Iowa school-aged children since July and some public schools in Iowa are experiencing COVID-19 infection rates at upwards of 60% of last year’s total for the entire school year.
Lebo has said any districts that violate the law will be referred to the State Board of Education and risk loss of funding.
Pratt also noted that the motion by the parents to halt enforcement of the law comes on the heels of the deeply partisan U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announcing its investigation into whether Iowa’s mask mandate ban violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act by discriminating against school-aged children with disabilities.
The parents in the lawsuit claim similar violations of federal law. They claimed—contrary to the remote learning that took place for much of last year—that in-person learning was essential for the small minority of immunocompromised children. They pointed out that Lebo remarked in January 2021 that a return to in-person learning is necessary as “students engaged in remote learning are falling behind academically.”
The parents of these children “thus lament the choice of having to either send their children to school in person with the rest of the kids their age without a mask mandate or swallow the lesser option that is not always available to them—remote learning,” Pratt said.
He concluded that the law seems to conflict with the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act “because it excludes disabled children from participating in and denies them the benefits of public schools’ programs, services, and activities to which they are entitled.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press