We just sent letters to 8 out of 10 schools involved in a lawsuit to protect children with disabilities, informing them that they must restore mask mandates immediately because they are in violation of a court ruling.
In September 2021, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of 11 children with disabilities that put them at heightened risk for COVID. Those children were attending schools without mask mandates, which forced children and their parents to choose between their health and an education, a violation of federal law, which requires schools to provide "reasonable accommodation" for students with disabilities so that they may have equal access to education.
The January 25 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit clearly states on page 2 that “mask requirements constitute a reasonable modification” for the children involved in the lawsuit and a school’s failure to provide this modification likely violates the Rehabilitation Act."
However, some schools involved in the lawsuit chose to not impose a mask mandate to protect the children with disabilities in the lawsuit, so the ACLU sent the letters to formally inform them that they are violating the ruling.
The schools receiving the letters are:
- Ankeny Community School District
- Council Bluffs Community School District
- Davenport Community School District
- Decorah Community School District
- Denver Community School District
- Johnston Community School District
- Linn-Mar Community School District
- Waterloo Community School District
Letters were not sent to the Des Moines Public School District or the Iowa City Public School District—also involved in the lawsuit—because they are following the law in maintaining their masking requirements after the 8th Circuit’s decision.
The letters ask the schools to respond within one week and specify that if they do not, the plaintiffs will consider further action, including further litigation, to ensure that the schools are complying with their obligations under federal law.
School districts not involved in the lawsuit must also still follow the Eighth Circuit’s decision, which recognizes that schools must provide reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities, and found that masking is a reasonable accommodation.
These include students with common disabilities such as asthma and diabetes. Click here to see the full list of the CDC's current list of conditions.
We may decide to take further action against unnamed school districts who are failing to provide masking mandates when required as a reasonable accommodation.