Iowa Code Section 280.31, signed into law on May 20, 2021, prohibits public school districts from requiring masks or face coverings for employees, students, or visitors. As you are likely aware, a federal lawsuit challenging Iowa Code 280.31 was recently filed on behalf of a local disability rights organization and the parents of eleven students with disabilities enrolled in public schools across the state. Among other things, the lawsuit claims that Iowa Code 280.31 violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by preventing schools from implementing “universal” mask requirements in school buildings to protect students with disabilities who may be especially at risk from COVID-19.
On September 13, a federal judge in Des Moines granted a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) prohibiting the State from enforcing section 280.31 during the pendency of the lawsuit. The order, which can be read in full here https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21061751-federal-temporary-restraining-order-iowa-house-file-847, is effective immediately. Practically speaking, each local school board may now make the decision whether to require masks in school buildings as part of their COVID mitigation plan.
Governor Reynolds has indicated that the State plans to appeal the ruling. However, until and unless a contrary order is entered, the TRO will remain in effect. We will continue to provide updates as they become available. We know each District will have unique considerations with respect to this development; we encourage you to contact your District’s counsel with specific questions.
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