Arkansas lawmakers react to schools mask mandates around the state

Coronavirus

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – With a judge issuing a temporary restraining order on Act 1002, which prohibits public entities (including school districts) from enacting a mask mandate, there have been several school districts in Arkansas that have implemented a mask mandate before school starts. 

Chairman of the House Public Health Committee Jack Ladyman believes the idea of masking children should be left to the parents. 

“They wanted to make that decision themselves and I tend to agree with that. I think parents know their children better than anybody,” he said. 

Ladyman said he understands there are some parents out there who are not responsible when it comes to their children’s health but the actions of a few should not allow for mandates to be implemented. 

As the chair of the Public Health Committee, he does not vote on matters unless it is to break a tie, which there was not one during the discussion of this matter of the Special Session.  But, he did say if he had voted it would not have been in favor of any changes to the current state law.

He said many of his constituents were not in favor of the idea. 

“I’m telling you the emails, the texts, the phone calls that I got from parents were running nine to one not wanting the mandate,” he explained.

State Senator Trent Garner was Act 1002’s main sponsor.  He has been very vocal about his opposition to changing the law and believes this is a decision that should not be legislated. 

He has three school districts in his district that have enacted mask mandates: Strong-Huttig, Camden Fairview, and El Dorado.  El Dorado recently passed their mandate by a 4-3 vote.

“We knew that these school boards may make that decision taking that away from literally thousands of parents.  Look at the El Dorado school board, for example, this is exactly why you don’t legislate at that level on such an important issue,” Garner said.

Ladyman believes any school board decision is no different than what the Legislature has done.

“I’m not second-guessing the school boards, it was put back on them.  But these school board members are probably parents of kids in the school and have no more medical training or background in that than the legislators do.  So they were looking at the same things we were looking at and they just made a different decision,” Ladyman said.

Garner said many in his district are upset at recent events that have allowed for school districts to have this authority, “And I can tell you right now, people are shocked, they’re dismayed this week.  Next week there’s going to be anger, you’re about to start seeing that happen.”

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