Little Rock and Marion school districts sue state over law banning face mask warrants
The Little Rock and Marion school districts on Thursday sued the state of Arkansas and the governor to overturn a state law that bans mask warrants in schools and other state-supported agencies.
The lawsuit, which challenges the constitutionality of Law 1002 of 2021, was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court. He asks that the law not be applied or, failing that, not be applied with regard to school districts.
“The Arkansans are experiencing a worsening of the Covid-19 pandemic”, begins the trial. “The strong consensus of medical and public health experts is that requiring masks to be worn in schools will significantly reduce the risk of contracting this highly contagious and virulent disease.
“No rational reason exists to deny students, teachers and staff in public schools, and the school boards that are required to protect them, the ability to ensure that all who work and learn in our schools public are as safe as possible, ”he added. said.
[DOCUMENT: Read the Little Rock and Marion school districts’ lawsuit » arkansasonline.com/86lawsuit/]
The complaint was filed by attorneys Chris Heller, Khayyam Eddings and Cody Kees.
The 20-page lawsuit is the second filed this week in Pulaski County Circuit Court challenging the ban on mask warrants. Tom Mars, an attorney for Rogers, filed a lawsuit earlier this week on behalf of two parents, Veronica McClane and Ashley Simmons.
The McClane / Simmons case has been turned over to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox and a 9:45 a.m. hearing is set today to determine whether a temporary restraining order is warranted to prevent the enforcement of the law.
School district attorneys on Thursday asked Fox to consolidate the two similar cases ahead of this morning’s hearing. The Arkansas attorney general’s office will defend the state in the lawsuits.
The Little Rock School Board voted 7-1 with an absentee Wednesday night to continue the lawsuit after considering its plan several days earlier.
[GRADE POINT ARKANSAS: Sign up for the Democrat-Gazette’s education newsletter » arkansasonline.com/emails/gpa]
The 3911 student district of Marion in eastern Arkansas was added overnight as a plaintiff in the case. The lawsuit notes that despite the efforts of Marion District leaders to encourage vaccinations and the wearing of masks, the district recorded 10 cases of covid-19 among students and staff during the first week of school which has started July 26. That week, the district placed 168 people in quarantine – necessary because they were exposed and had not been vaccinated.
“If all people simply exposed to, but not tested positive for, Covid-19 had consistently and correctly worn masks, only 12 people should have been quarantined,” the trial says.
District attorneys argue that because the Marion District cannot enforce the wearing of masks by employees and students, the number of people in quarantine is greater.
[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]
[EMAIL SIGNUP: Form not appearing above? Click here to subscribe to updates on the coronavirus » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus/email/]
“If MSD could issue its own policy requiring students and employees to wear masks, it could more effectively prevent transmission of exposure to Covid-19 and its variants and avoid the need for a school closure.” , indicates the trial.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Marion District website shows that a total of 56 students and staff have tested positive for covid since the school start date of July 26. A total of 839 students and 10 employees have been quarantined since July 26 for exposure to other people with covid-19. A total of 59 students and 18 staff have bypassed quarantine because they are vaccinated, according to the district’s website.
District covid-19 counts are here: https://www.msd3.org/article/505134.
“The situation in the Marion School District (MSD) in eastern Arkansas opens a window into the not-so-distant future of Arkansas school districts,” the lawyers wrote. “In just over a week, if Law 1002 remains in effect, the MSD experiment will likely be repeated statewide, leading to unnecessary exposure of students, faculty and staff to Covid-19, and unnecessary deprivation of educational opportunities. “
The lawsuit notes that Hutchinson declared a state of emergency in the state due to the increase in the number of covid-19s.
He also cites reports from medical staff on the number of children and adolescents admitted to Arkansas children’s hospitals in Little Rock and northwest Arkansas with covid-19. These include children under 12 who cannot be vaccinated against the virus.
The lawsuit notes that classes begin for more than 21,000 students in the Little Rock District on August 16, but that extracurricular activities already – training for the Pinnacle View football team and travel for the Southwest High volleyball team – had to be reduced due to the covid-19 outbreaks and associated quarantines.
“LRSD and MSD students, the vast majority of whom are not vaccinated, will suffer irreparable harm if they are forced to congregate in their classrooms with unmasked classmates and put themselves at unnecessary risk. unnecessarily increased from contracting Covid-19, “the school’s lawyers said. systems writes.
The lawsuit argues that Law 1002 violates several provisions of the state constitution, including Article 14 which requires that “the state always maintain an adequate and efficient general system of free public schools and adopt all means. appropriate to guarantee the benefits and opportunities of education to the people. “
The costume also says: “[R]Forcing students to risk their health and that of their families to receive the education promised to them in the Arkansas Constitution cannot survive even a rational basic examination. “
Law 1002 also violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution in that some state-backed agencies can mandate the wearing of masks and others not. The law will bring districts into conflict with federal guidelines – from the Centers for Disease Control – that employees and students must wear masks on school buses. And the law illegally restricts the governor in his efforts to deal with a public health emergency and the power of the courts to manage proceedings in their courtrooms.
Lawyers cite US Supreme Court decisions in which the court found that there are restrictions necessary for the common good.
“A society founded on the rule that everyone is a law for themselves would soon face disorder and anarchy,” the Supreme Court said. And “true freedom for all” cannot exist on the premise that each individual can do whatever he or she wants “regardless of the harm that may be done to others”.