Arkansas court overturns ruling against schools mask mandate | Government and politics

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a judge’s decision to block a school district’s mask mandate that was implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The judges overturned the temporary restraining order issued against the Bentonville School District’s mask requirement. Bentonville was among dozens of districts that imposed a mask requirement last year after a state law banning such mandates was blocked in a separate case. A group of parents had for follow-up question the mandate.

The court said Arkansas laws give schools broad authority to determine their policies.

“Based on this precedent, we conclude that the district properly authorized its policy,” Chief Justice Dan Kemp wrote in the court’s decision.

A spokeswoman said the district has no plans to reinstate the mask requirement at this time.

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“Since the start of our appeal, we have upheld the lower court’s decision putting school boards and school administrators in the position to face litigation whenever a family disagrees with a policy affecting their child,” spokeswoman Leslee Wright said in an “Arkansas Supreme Court ruling reaffirms a school board’s authority to create an environment that protects students, to the best of their abilities, while they’re at school.

In a separate opinion, Special Judge Howard Brill said parents have a right to be informed and to be heard on issues such as the wearing of masks. But, Brill wrote, that doesn’t mean they have the right to “micromanage” schools.

“If parents are unhappy with the school board’s decisions, they have an avenue of appeal,” wrote Brill, who was appointed to hear the case after Judge Rhonda Wood’s recusal. “It’s the urn.”

A lawyer for the parents who sued for warrant said he was disappointed with the decision.

“The court effectively ruled against parental rights in the state of Arkansas and that’s something we’re really disappointed with,” Travis Story said.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Barbara Webb wrote that the court granted school boards “unrestricted control over children in public school.”

“Using this expansive interpretation of the law, decisions about a child’s health care, medication, and gender identity will fall within the power of the school board to mandate in the name of ‘effective’ and ‘free’ education. “,” Webb wrote.

A Pulaski County judge in December struck an Arkansas law prohibiting schools and other government entities from requiring masks. The state’s appeal against this decision is pending before the Arkansas Supreme Court.

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