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We are seeing coverage that says that today’s ruling means that schools not named in the lawsuit can’t require masks. That is incorrect.

(The Register posted a story this morning that we maintain is incorrect, and we are working with them to get that story corrected. As of 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, we feel it still has an incorrect headline and text.) 

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The Court today ruled that the law allows mandatory masking for schools across the state–as a reasonable accommodation when necessary to accommodate students with disabilities. The ruling says that masking is a reasonable accommodation that ALL students are entitled to under federal disability law—not just as part of a lawsuit.

Bottom line: The court noted that schools not mentioned in the lawsuit are covered by federal laws, which require schools to have masking rules to protect students with disabilities who attend their schools. Just because they’re not part of the lawsuit doesn’t mean that a school is exempt from federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Here is a quote from ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen that gives more detail:

“This decision is an enormous victory for students with disabilities across Iowa.  

It’s incorrect that the Court has done something that would block schools statewide from being able to require masks. To the contrary, the Court ruled that Iowa’s law allows mandatory masking as a reasonable accommodation when necessary to accommodate students with disabilities, and that masking is a reasonable accommodation that students are entitled to under federal disability law.  It also held that plaintiffs are entitled to a preliminary injunction — and kept that injunction in place — as against named school districts.  While the Court found that the injunction should be narrowed to only enjoin named school districts because they were enforcing the law in a manner that violated the federal ADA and Rehab Act, under the Court’s reasoning, school districts around the state who are not named defendants are violating federal law if they do not require masking when needed as a reasonable accommodation for students with disabilities.  

While unnamed school districts are not enjoined, they still have to follow the law, which the court just said in this opinion provides for masking as a reasonable accommodation when needed to allow students with disabilities to go to school safely.

The court also instructed the district court on remand to enter an injunction against the governor and secretary of education enjoining them from enforcing the law against ANY school in a way that prevents schools from requiring masking to accommodate children with disabilities.

We are prepared to enforce the decision to protect students with disabilities across the state.” 

Legal Deep Dive

And if you want even more detail, here is the part of today’s ruling that says that even the schools not mentioned in the lawsuit must follow federal law to protect students with disabilities and require masks. 

“Plaintiffs meet each requirement for a preliminary injunction and are therefore entitled to one.” page 17

“Under the first factor, Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits because mask requirements constitute a reasonable modification and schools’ failure to provide this accommodation likely violates the RA.” page 18 <RA=Rehabilitation Act>

“Requiring masks is also not an unreasonable infringement on third parties’ rights.” page 19

“This Court holds that Section 280.31 allows mask requirements that are necessary to comply with the RA or ADA . . . ” page 21 (interpreting Iowa law as NOT prohibiting masking when required as reasonable accommodation for students with disabilities. This interpretation of law is statewide.)

“A proper injunction therefore would: (1) establish that federal disability law requires mask wearing as a reasonable accommodation and that Section 280.31 allows this; (2) prohibit Defendant from imposing a contrary reading of Section 280.31, or otherwise preventing, delaying, or failing to provide such reasonable accommodations; and (3) thereby ensure that Plaintiffs’ schools may impose mask requirements as reasonable accommodations.” Page 24( #2 means the court also instructed the district court on remand to enter an injunction against the governor and secretary of education enjoining them from enforcing the law against ANY school in a way that prevents schools from requiring masking to accommodate children with disabilities

Author: Press Release

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