Are there ways around Arizona’s ban on school face mask mandates?

Jul 29, 2021, 4:05 AM
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, FIle)...
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, FIle)
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, FIle)

PHOENIX – A new Arizona law prohibits public schools from enacting face mask mandates, but a Phoenix attorney said there could be ways around the ban.

Barry Markson of the Gust Rosenfeld law firm told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday he sees several possibilities for circumventing the law, which was passed last month as a provision in the state budget.

“There are things that the governor can do to suspend that law if it’s in the best interest of the health and safety of Arizonans,” Markson said, citing Gov. Doug Ducey’s power to issue executive orders like he did early in the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

That would seem unlikely, however, because Ducey reiterated his opposition to government mandates Tuesday after the Centers for Disease Control recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children under 12 are not eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Arizona does not allow mask mandates, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports or discrimination in schools based on who is or isn’t vaccinated,” Ducey said in a press release. “We’ve passed all of this into law, and it will not change.”

Markson said another possibility is that a school district could challenge the ban in court.

“The school districts can sue the state regarding that law and say that the state is now putting their students in danger … and they could ask that that law be found unconstitutional based on the schools’ power to operate and do what the feel is best for the health and safety of their students,” he said.

A district could also go ahead and implement a face mask mandate and wait for the state to challenge it, sparking a legal showdown, Markson said.

“A judge could issue a temporary restraining order, or a more permanent order, that would suspend the law and allow school districts to implement the safety procedures regarding masks or home-schooling or whatever they wanted to do in order to protect the safety of their students,” he said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jeremy Foster contributed to this report.

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Are there ways around Arizona’s ban on school face mask mandates?