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Appeals court sides with Iowa on law banning mask mandates

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(The Center Square) – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit overturned a ruling Tuesday that would have blocked a 2021 Iowa law banning mask mandates.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa issued a temporary restraining order for House File 847 due to a lawsuit filed in 2021 by ARC of Iowa and the American Civil Liberties Union. ARC, which serves children with disabilities, said the lack of masking put children at risk for COVID-19. The lawsuit named Gov. Kim Reynolds, the Iowa Department of Education director and ten school districts they said failed to enforce mask mandates as defendants.

The appeals court said ARC and the ACLU lacked standing on their claims that children would be harmed by the ban on mask mandates because they could not show they suffered an injury that is “concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent.”

“Here, because Plaintiffs have only alleged the potential risk of severe illness should they contract COVID-19 at school, the risk of harm is too speculative to satisfy the injury in fact element,” the court said in its ruling. “Even if Plaintiffs could show injury in fact, they cannot carry their burden to establish traceability.”

The plaintiffs also failed to show the existence of a case that requires federal intervention, the ruling said.

“Further, Iowa Code § 280.31 does not prohibit a school from complying with disability laws, nor have Plaintiffs alleged that a school denied their request for masking as a reasonable accommodation tailored to their child’s situation,” the ruling said.

Attorney General Brenna Bird said the decision means “freedom wins.”

“Parents have the right to choose what healthcare decisions are best for their kids,” Bird said in a statement. “As Attorney General, I support Iowans’ rights and freedoms and will continue fighting to defend them.”

Reynolds said elected leaders should trust the people they serve.

“While children were the least vulnerable, they paid the highest price for COVID lockdowns and mandates, but Iowa was a different story,” Reynolds said in a statement. “Iowa was the first state to get students back in the classroom and we prohibited mask mandates in schools, trusting parents to decide what was best for their children.”

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