Utah parents sued Monday to get rid of strict restrictions on school mask orders. This is the seventh state that has banned school mask orders.
On September 10, 2020, a teacher leads students at Freedom Preparatory Academy in Provo. AFP via Getty Images
The Key Facts
Concerned Coalition, a grassroots group representing nine Utah parents, sued the state leadership and Salt Lake County officials to challenge the Utah laws that ban school mask mandates and impose other Covid restrictions. Plaintiffs claim the laws are in violation of the Utah State Constitutions. They were filed by nine parents from Utah who formed the grassroots organization Concerned Coalition. The county council must approve the school mask orders. If the local authorities approve them, the state legislature can vote to repeal the local mask order. One Utah school district now has a mandatory mask in place, but Salt Lake County's attempt to impose one was thwarted by its council. This led Salt Lake City's mayor to issue a mask order on Friday, possibly in violation of state rules. After litigation was filed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma challenging the states' prohibitions on school-mask mandates, Utah sued. This leaves Iowa and Tennessee as only states without school mask mandate bans. The Arkansas mask mandate ban was overturned by the courts. Texas' ban has received a number of temporary rulings in support of those challenging it. This has caused the state to temporarily suspend its mask mandate ban while the litigation continues. However, legal challenges from other states are still pending. The lawsuit was not reported by the Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.
We wouldn't be here if our state legislature hadn't taken the necessary steps to stop the safety and health measures that our schools, our health departments, and our teachers want to implement. We are. Attorney Greg Skordas, representing the plaintiffs in this case, stated Monday that nobody wants to file such a lawsuit. We believe the laws are unconstitutional, unfair and we were forced to take them to court.
What to Watch
Skordas stated Monday that the plaintiffs would file an application for a temporary order against Utah's school mask policy. They also asked for an expedited hearing. This could allow for a quick decision as to whether or not the state law will be temporarily struck down. The next major ruling in the litigation against state mask bans is likely to be in Florida. A three-day hearing began Monday in one the lawsuits challenging the state rules. Although no lawsuit has been filed in Iowa yet, parents from Council Bluffs said earlier this month that they are considering filing a lawsuit against Iowa. The state is facing increasing opposition from parents.
As a result of a Covid-19 surge, school mask mandate bans are becoming more controversial as the new school year begins. This has made children who are not eligible for vaccination especially vulnerable. Schools in the majority of states that have mask mandate bans have placed mask orders, even though they could face consequences. Florida already sanctioned two schools districts for imposing mask mandates. It also said that it would withhold money from the state budget equivalent to salaries of school board members. However, that has not stopped other school districts following their lead and imposing their own mask orders. Salt Lake City could be acting as a spokesperson for the governor if any Utah districts violate the state's mask order restrictions. Spencer Cox explained to the Salt Lake Tribune that the Utah State Board of Education has the power to intervene and could issue sanctions like funding cuts. The White House has supported school districts that are against state policies to implement mask mandates. They were told they could use federal funding to replace state funding. It also warned them they might investigate and punish states with school mask mandate bans.
Utah's mandate bans and restrictions are challenged in a lawsuit (Fox 35).
Tennessee is the latest state to ban school mask mandates
Texas Supreme Court Supports School Mask Mandat Ban
Oklahoma becomes 4th state to face local challenge to school mask mandate ban (Forbes).
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