Iowa City parents ask school district to go against the law and install a mask mandate

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 10:17 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Some Iowa City parents are asking the district to defy state law by requiring masks in school.

Jonna Higgins-Freese presented a petition with over 1,000 signatures. Those signatures are made up of other parents, community members, and medical professionals in the area.

If the district illegally put a mask mandate in place, they could risk losing state and federal funding. That’s why some other parents think that all children should be given a choice.

The petition highlights three main points: They state masks work when everyone wears them, masks are safe for adults and children over two, and universal masking in schools is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.

“We have legislation in place that interferes with our abilities to put in place measures that protect the common good,” Higgins-Freese said.

Dr. Emad Abou-Arab was one of the medical experts who helped put the petition together. As a physician who works with younger children, he said a mask mandate is the only way to keep students safe.

“If we can’t keep the kids safe then we can’t keep them in school. So the best way to do that is wear a mask and mandate the mask,” Abou-Arab said.

The point of keeping kids in school was a major reason a mother of two Brook Easton co-signed the initial petition.

“I’ve just been doing everything I can to advocate for my children who spent 18 months at home,” Easton said.

Other parents in the school district want to give their kids the chance to choose. Christian Prochaska said he’s fine with his three children going to school without masks, he just wants them to have the choice.

”I feel that when a mandate’s proposed that’s not enforceable it just divides people, because I think there’s going to be a certain segment that won’t wear them because they know it’s not enforceable,” Prochaska said.

Higgins-Freese said she knows the petition is asking the school district to go against the law. But she adds that she worries about her kids’ safety if the school board doesn’t instill a mandate.

“The people that signed the petition wanted to tell the school board that we would stand behind them for doing what’s right for our children,” Higgins-Freese said.

In a statement released by Iowa City Schools, officials said they will continue to recommend face coverings, but because of the state law and under advisement from the district’s attorney, they legally cannot and will not force mask-wearing inside their buildings. As of Wednesday, 31 students in the district are positive for COVID-19.

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