(The Center Square) – A three-member panel of the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the preliminary injunction on Iowa’s law banning schools from requiring masks because of the shift in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The district court in September issued the injunction blocking the state law. The same panel partially reinstated the ban in January, but Monday’s ruling vacated that earlier opinion.
The Circuit Court opinion held by Circuit Court Judges Duane Benton and Ralph Erickson said that children older than four could receive the vaccine, significantly decreasing the Plaintiffs’ children’s risk of severe bodily injury or death from contracting COVID-19 at school.
While Delta, the dominant COVID-19 strain when the plaintiffs asked for the preliminary injunction, had high transmission rates and caseloads nationally, Omicron is now the dominant strain, and it’s subsided, with lower transmission rates and caseloads, the opinion added.
The court has not yet taken a position on the plaintiffs’ claims. However, as the case continues, the parties and the district court should pay special attention to a section of the facial coverings law as the case continues: the exception for “any other provision in law.”
“If another state or federal law requires masks, Section 280.31 does not conflict with that law – and thus should not be completely enjoined,” the opinion said.
The ACLU of Iowa’s lawsuit against the state continues, however.
“The lawsuit was filed to protect Iowa students with disabilities who need to be protected by masking from COVID from the way the state was enforcing a new Iowa law. That new state law prohibited schools from requiring masking,” ACLU of Iowa said in its response to the decision. “The Court’s decision today vacates as moot the district court’s preliminary injunction only; the Court’s decision allows for the possibility of further litigation in this case.”
The organization stipulated that the court did not rule that schools cannot require masking to protect students with disabilities.
“Today’s decision interprets the new state law to mean that schools can still require masking for students with disabilities that make them particularly susceptible to COVID, under federal disability rights laws,” it said. “Bottom line: Iowa schools can still require and Iowa parents can still request masking as a reasonable accommodation for students with disabilities under appropriate circumstances.”
In her dissenting opinion, Circuit Court Judge Jane Kelly said parents can still seek accommodations for their children as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“Section 280.31 explicitly includes an exception when ‘any other provision of law’ requires face coverings,” she said. “Schools are equipped to determine on an individualized, case-by-case basis – just as schools do for any other type of reasonable accommodation request – whether a mask requirement for certain people or places in the school building is a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and RA. This is what federal law requires, and what Section 280.31 – and Defendants who are charged with enforcing it – must allow.”