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Parents of students with disabilities, ACLU sue Iowa over mask mandate ban law

Published: Sep. 4, 2021 at 9:14 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - 11 parents of children who live with disabilities, with two other organizations, filed a lawsuit hoping to strike down Iowa’s law that bans mask mandates in schools.

”It is terrifying for a parent to have to worry every day about the physical safety of their child and to have to choose between their child keeping up with their education and their child becoming seriously ill and perhaps even dying,” Heather Preston, of Des Moines, said. “That is a choice that no parent should have to make.”

Preston has two children. One of them has a rare organ disorder. She said her doctor advised her that puts her son at risk for serious illness if he contracts COVID-19.

For that reason, Preston is joining 10 other Iowa parents and The Arc of Iowa in filing a federal lawsuit challenging an Iowa law that bans school districts from requiring masks in schools. The American Civil Liberties Union is backing the lawsuit.

”It is wrong to force kids out of school because they have health conditions and disabilities that put them at a higher risk of serious complications from COVID, and it is wrong to require parents to expose their children to these risks just so they can go to school,” Rita Bettis Austen, legal director of the ACLU of Iowa, said.

Susan Mizner, the director of the ACLU’s Disability Rights Program, said in a press conference that Iowa’s law goes against the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. She added those state three things:

  • Public schools cannot exclude students with disabilities.
  • Public schools cannot deny students with disabilities equal access to their education.
  • Public schools cannot segregate students with disabilities unnecessarily.

”You cannot say, ‘Well, for students with disabilities we are just going to put you over here and the rest of the students can be integrated with the rest of the community,” Mizner said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has said that concerned parents do have the option to enroll their children in fully-online learning. The ACLU claims that would both segregate students with disabilities and provide unequal education.

KCRG-TV9 reached out to the Governor’s office for comment but did not hear back.

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