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U.S. Dept. of Education opening investigation on Iowa's ban of universal masking

Posted at 6:26 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 19:28:42-04

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) - The Department of Education is investigating if Iowa's ban on indoor masking discriminates against students with disabilities.

Robyn is an Iowa mother whose son is in elementary school. She declined to speak on camera and give out her last name because she wants to protect her son's identity. Her child's immune system doesn't work like others, so sending him to school is a daily risk.

"It's very scary because he's at a higher risk and we don't know how sick he could be and hearing the hospitals are filling up more and more, it's just really scary," Robyn said.

Robyn cannot take her son out of school because it would be a detriment to his education.

"If he's not in person, he loses his services and he would lose even a district teacher because almost all Iowa schools have gone through a third party site if they are offering online this year, and so that means he's not getting a local teacher and wouldn't be assigned a Special Ed teacher even within his school," Robyn said.

ACLU of Iowa's Executive Director Mark Stringer says situations like Robyn's violates laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

"The Americans with Disability Act and Rehabilitation Act do indeed require schools to provide an equal education, so that means that Iowa schools have to be able to provide masked environments so kids with disabilities and health conditions that could lead to serious illness can go to school just like other kids," Stringer said.

Pottawattamie County Public Health's Matt Wyant not having mask mandates in place allows the virus to travel faster.

"Right now, we are seeing the increased caseloads of what that means for us, we were back up over 300 cases last week and we have approximately 27 individuals in our Council Bluffs hospitals based on this," Wyant said.

Robyn's choice would be to allow parents to have a choice of putting their kids in a masked or unmasked classroom.

"Parents like me and with other concerns - maybe the parent is sick or the grandparent - who want their children in masks and in a classroom of masked students should be able to opt for that during a pandemic," Robyn said.

Robyn is convinced the state has failed in protecting its children.

"Yes I do because any time levels were finally getting to an acceptable rate where we could leave isolation at home with masks and things like that, they would remove them, instead of protecting those with lower immune systems," Robyn said.

3 News Now reached out to Gov. Kim Reynolds for a statement. She said:

“Iowa was able to reopen schools safely and responsibly over a year ago. President Biden and his team know this, yet they’ve decided to pick a political fight with a handful of governors to distract from his own failures - Afghanistan, the border, inflation, and more.

“As I’ve said all along, I believe and trust in Iowans to make the best health decisions for themselves and their families. Iowa’s democratically elected legislature endorsed that view as well when they passed a law to support a parent’s right to decide what’s best for their own children. In Iowa, we will continue to support individual liberty over government mandates.”

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