Arkansas Supreme Court allows school mask mandates to continue

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 497 views 

School districts can continue deciding whether to require students to wear masks after the Arkansas Supreme Court Thursday (Sept. 30) declined to issue a stay of a preliminary injunction in a circuit court case.

The decision was announced regarding the injunction by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox that temporarily blocked enforcement of Act 1002 until a trial can be held. Fox issued the injunction Aug. 6 and set a trial date of Nov. 22-24.

After Act 1002 banned local school districts and state and local agencies from enforcing mask mandates, a lawsuit was brought by the Little Rock School District, Marion School District, two parents, Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde, and Pulaski County Sheriff Eric Higgins. Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the veto-proof bill into law, but later said he regretted that decision and had asked the court to deny the request.

The court case was brought by Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, and Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, in their official capacities.

Voting for the denial were Chief Justice Dan Kemp and Justices Courtney Hudson, Karen Baker and Robin Wynne. Justices Barbara Webb and Shawn Womack would have granted the stay. Justice Rhonda Wood did not participate.

According to a database kept and updated by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), 158 school districts and charter schools have full or partial mask requirements, while 103 have no mask mandate. ACHI also reported Thursday that 78 Arkansas public school districts have COVID-19 infection rates of 50 or more new known infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period, down from 147 last week.

A poll by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College released earlier this week found that 46% of 916 likely Arkansas voters believed school boards should have the authority to decide whether face masks should be required in schools. Another 29% believed the state should require masks to be worn in all public schools, while 22.5% said the state should prohibit schools from requiring face masks.

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