Arkansas judge strikes down law banning mask mandates

Coronavirus

(file/MGN photo)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas judge has struck down the state’s law prohibiting schools and other government entities from requiring masks.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox issued the ruling on Wednesday, months after he temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the ban.

More than 100 public charter schools and school districts imposed mask mandates following Fox’s ruling in August, though many have since eased or lifted them altogether.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the ban into law in April, though he has since said he regretted that decision.

Judge Fox found the law unconstitutional, including on grounds that it discriminates between children in public and private schools. Private schools were not barred from requiring masks under the law.

“I am pleased with the decision of Judge Fox,” Gov. Hutchinson said of the ruling. “The ruling that Act 1002 is unconstitutional serves as a restraint against the legislative branch and helps reset the correct balance between the branches of government. The ruling also makes it clear that local school boards have the authority to protect the health of students during the pandemic. I am in favor of schools and local government having the authority to keep students and their constituents safe as we see another surge in COVID-19 cases.”

When reached for comment on the ruling, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office said, “The Attorney General is reviewing the trial court’s opinion and will determine next steps.”

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