ISEA hails judge’s order blocking ban on school mask mandates

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Iowa State Education Association president Mike Beranek says it is a “welcome relief” to have a federal judge issue an order that blocks Iowa’s ban on mask mandates in schools.

“The number is increasing of our students that are contracting the virus,” Beranek said, “and one of the best protocols that we could be utilizing here in the state is to be wearing masks.”

Beranek spoke during an online news conference shortly before a federal judge issued a temporary injunction barring enforcement of the law that has prevented schools from requiring people wear face coverings on school grounds. According to Beranek, more than 80% of school districts required students and staff to wear masks last year. With the more contagious delta variant of Covid now circulating, the number of students testing positive for the virus is increasing.

“The number of students below 12 years of age that are contracting the virus is a concern since they do not have the ability to have a vaccine yet,” Beranek said.

Beranek said in a written statement that the people in the best position to decide what is right for the health and safety of a school community are “the people in that school district.”

Governor Kim Reynolds signed the statewide ban on school mask mandates in May and she indicated in a written statement that the state will appeal the federal judge’s ruling. Reynolds said parents should decide whether their own children wear masks at school.

House Speaker Pat Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford, said the law took the necessary step “to return decision-maker power to parents” and the judge’s order strips parents of those freedoms.