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Education groups sue Arizona over mask mandate ban

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Posted at 9:49 AM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 12:49:54-04

PHOENIX — A coalition of local education groups has filed a lawsuit against the State of Arizona over its ban on mask mandates.

The lawsuit was brought on by several groups including the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Education Association.

They claim a new law, which prohibits public and charter schools from enforcing mask mandates, is unconstitutional.

In their lawsuit, the education groups write that if schools “cannot impose reasonable COVID-19 mitigation measures students and teachers will get sick, and some may die.”

Several school districts, including the Tucson Unified School District, have begun reinstating mask mandates requiring all students and staff to wear face coverings while indoors.

A teacher within the district filed a separate lawsuit in Superior Court hoping to overturn that mask mandate. A ruling hasn't been made.

The moves come as COVID-19 cases increase across Arizona and nationwide. On Friday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,225 new cases and 23 additional deaths.

It’s a deeply personal battle for many educators, including the head of Arizona’s largest teachers union, Joe Thomas.

“Republican legislators wrote this letter calling out the K-12 system and the university system for doing what we could to keep our students safe and say we're violating the law when they violated the law to even pass the prohibition on temporary requirements of masks. Arizona deserves so much better than what we received out of this budget and out of these policies,” said Thomas, President of the Arizona Education Association.

Governor Doug Ducey's office responded to a chorus of K-12 and elementary schools that are bucking state law by instating mask mandates.

The office said that mask mandates are "toothless, unenforceable and will not hold up in court."

"COVID has been with us for well over a year and a half now, and Arizonans are educated about it. If they want to wear masks, they should absolutely do so. It’s an individual choice. No one and no law anywhere in Arizona is stopping anyone from wearing masks," a Ducey spokesman stated on Thursday.

"Ultimately, these mandates are toothless, unenforceable, and will not hold up in court. As we’ve said repeatedly, the game-changer in this discussion is the vaccine. It works, it’s widely available and we strongly encourage every eligible Arizonan to get their shot," the statement continued.