An Arkansas judge temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the ban on school mask mandates on Friday.
Judge Tim Fox issued a preliminary injunction against the law after finding that, among other things, it discriminated between public and private schools.
In April, Governor Asa Hutchinson enacted the rule that prohibits schools and government agencies from enforcing the masks’ mandates.
This week, two lawsuits were filed against the governor seeking to invalidate the law. The first lawsuit was filed by two parents on Monday, while the Little Rock School District and the Marion School District filed a second lawsuit on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the Republican governor said he regretted the law and had asked the state legislature to repeal the measure in the law that prohibited schools from requiring face covering.
“I signed it for those reasons that our cases were at a low point. Everything has changed now. And yes, in hindsight, I wish that hadn’t become law, “he told a news conference.
Hutchinson called a special session of the legislature to consider two bills that would have amended the law to give local school districts the authority to implement mask mandates. However, both failed to leave the committee on Thursday.
The governor celebrated the judge’s ruling on Friday.
“While the Arkansas General Assembly did not amend Law 1002, my goal was achieved thanks to today’s court decision by Justice Fox, who ruled that Law 1002 is unconstitutional. This ruling provides flexibility for school districts to make decisions about how best to protect their students, ”Hutchinson said in a statement.
He too criticized lawmakers who were against amending the ban on the mask mandate, saying several of them had took an “informal, if not arrogant attitude” toward Arkansas’ COVID-19 crisis.
“What worries me is that many just listen to the loudest voices and don’t stand up with compassion, common sense and serious action,” he said.
However, the Republican backer of the mandate’s ban said he believes the state should focus on other ways to address the outbreaks in schools, including licensing for teachers they must quarantine.
“What I don’t want is this false sense of security that the masks seem to provide because it’s an easy political tool,” said Republican State Senator Trent Garner. “We are going to find real solutions when this happens in our schools, and I think we are sadly inadequate at that.”
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