School districts can legally implement a mask mandate; are they going to do it?

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – On Friday, an Arkansas judge blocked the state from enforcing a law banning mask mandates by schools and other governmental bodies.

Judge Tim Fox made that judgement after two parents were in court to sue the state to overturn an Arkansas law prohibiting schools and other governments from requiring face masks.

During this week’s Special Session, state legislators made no changes to the existing mask mandate ban as schools begin the school year during a COVID-19 surge.

We reached out to multiple schools across the area to see if they would implement a mask mandate this fall following Judge Fox’s ruling. Here’s what they had to say:

Benton School District: “No comment.”

Bryant Public Schools:
“Arkansas lawmakers passed Act 1002 of 2021 which prohibits state and local governments, including school boards, from requiring people to wear masks. The law went into effect on July 28.
With the surge in COVID-19 numbers, Governor Asa Hutchinson called legislators into a special session this week, asking them to provide an exception to the law that would grant each school board the authority to decide whether to require students younger than 12 years of age to wear a mask. Arkansas lawmakers ended the special session with no changes to the existing mask mandate ban.
On Friday, August 5, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox heard a case brought by the Little Rock School District, Marion School District, and parents challenging the state law that prohibits school districts from requiring masks/face coverings. Judge Fox granted a restraining order that temporarily blocks the state from enforcing the mask mandate ban. Further legal proceedings are expected. Those proceedings could begin in days or weeks.
As Arkansas’s highest court, the Arkansas Supreme Court will likely have the final word on this issue.  Having the benefit of guidance from the Arkansas Supreme Court will allow the Bryant School Board to make the best possible decision for the benefit of the district’s students, families and staff. Bryant Public Schools’ administration will continue to closely monitor the legal proceedings in this case and provide further updates to the board. The timing and duration of further legal proceedings may dictate the timing of any review of this matter by the Bryant School Board. “

Pulaski County Special School District: “We won’t be issuing a statement today. We expect to have one on Monday and this will also be part of the board discussion on Tuesday.

Little Rock School District: “Our Board will meet this coming Thursday to discuss.”

North Little Rock School District:  In light of today’s ruling from a Pulaski County judge concerning a mask mandate, the Superintendent will be meeting with legal counsel to determine immediate next steps.  We will keep you updated.
We thank our families and staff for taking the survey last week as we sought to gauge our stakeholders’ thoughts about masks in the North Little Rock School District.  A total of 3,915 people took the survey.  Eighty-two percent of the respondents said they support a mask mandate throughout the district.
The health and well-being of our students and staff is our number one priority.  We thank you for being a part of the North Little Rock School District.

Jacksonville North Pulaski School District: “During our last school board meeting in August (8/2), we briefly discussed the possibilities if there was a favorable outcome from the court case. We will discuss the board members’ thoughts and then make a final decision at the next meeting. There may be a special board meeting but it has not been decided yet.”

Conway Public Schools: Did return phone call.

Cabot Public Schools: Did not return phone call.

Heber Springs School District: “Heber Springs Schools will not make any changes at this point in time. The State Legislators did not amend Act 1002 of 2021, but a judge has ordered a preliminary injunction.  This has been a constantly changing issue, and we feel it is wise because this decision is subject to change with further orders of the court and/or the appeals process. Any individual at Heber Springs Schools is welcome to wear a mask if they choose.”

Searcy School District: “No comment.”

Hot Springs School District: “Hot Springs Schools want to do what is best and safest for our students and we will also follow guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Masks are strongly encouraged for both students and staff.”

This is a list we will continue to update as we hear back from districts across the area.

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