Hoffman says ruling against mask mandate bans in Arizona schools ‘right decision’
PHOENIX — Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said a Monday ruling that a law banning face mask mandates in Arizona schools violates the state constitution and can’t go into effect this week as scheduled was the right move for students, parents and administrators.
The mask mandate ban and other limits on COVID-19 mitigation efforts was set to go into effect Wednesday despite continued pushback from Hoffman and others who argued the limits would keep students out of the classroom due to possible illness and exposure to the virus.
“I definitely think it was the right decision,” Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “I was thrilled to see this ruling because ultimately we wanted to see them restore the local authority back to our school boards to work with public health experts to implement public health policies to keep our students and staff safe.”
Hoffman expects the ruling, made by Judge Katherine Cooper and who noted that the restrictions were rolled into budget bills illegally, will help prevent future COVID-19 outbreaks and disruptions in learning.
The decision came after a lawsuit filed last month by a coalition of educators and allies challenged new laws prohibiting public school districts from imposing mask requirements, colleges from requiring vaccinations for students, and communities from establishing vaccine passports for entry into large events, businesses and other places.
Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, had 219 active outbreaks in schools as of Monday, accounting for a third of outbreaks since data tracking began in August 2020.
“I’m hopeful this will help to accelerate learning ultimately,” Hoffman said.
Dozens of Arizona districts started their school years with face mask mandates in place, disregarding the wishes of Ducey and the Republican lawmakers who passed the laws with no Democratic support.
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published research showing that Arizona public schools without mask requirements were over three times more likely to experience COVID-19 outbreaks than schools with mandates.
“The odds of a school-associated COVID-19 outbreak were 3.5 times higher in schools with no mask requirement than in those with a mask requirement implemented at the time school started,” the researchers concluded.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino and The Associated Press contributed to this report.