Teacher sues Valley school district over face mask mandate
PHOENIX — A teacher is suing the Phoenix Union High School District over its decision to implement a mask mandate when classes began Monday for the fall semester.
Douglas Hester, a biology teacher at Metro Tech High School, said in the lawsuit the mask requirement goes against state law.
A law passed as part of the fiscal year 2022 budget bans mask mandates in Arizona — including in schools — and is retroactive to June 30.
“Regardless of where you come down on the mask issue, that’s not the question,” Alexander Kolodin, Hester’s attorney, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday. “The question is once the Legislature has made a law, does the government have to follow it?”
Phoenix Union Superintendent Chad Geston argued Friday the district went against the law in an effort to keep students in classrooms, a sentiment reiterated Tuesday in response to the lawsuit.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Arizona due to the prevalence of the delta variant.
“We stand behind our decision to require masks at this time, and remain steadfast in our commitment to do all we can to protect our staff, students, families and broader community,” the district said in a statement.
Gov. Doug Ducey hasn’t taken action against Phoenix Union or other districts who have defied the law, including the Phoenix Elementary School District.
Ducey’s office said districts who buck the law have no merit.
“Gov. Ducey believes the decision by Phoenix Union requiring masks has no teeth. It’s not allowed under Arizona law. It’s unenforceable,” Ducey’s office said in a statement to KTAR News on Friday. “Arizona is not anti-mask, we’re anti-mask mandate.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.