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'This is a public health crisis': TUSD Superintendent defends mask mandate on CNN

Gabriel Trujillo says law prohibiting mask mandates is unconstitutional
TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo defended the district's mask mandate on CNN on Aug. 12, 2021.
Posted at 4:08 PM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 19:08:01-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The superintendent of southern Arizona's largest school district appeared on CNN Thursday morning to defend the district's decision to enforce a mask mandate in its schools.

Dr. Gabriel Trujillo said the school was focused on public health in its decision, and that a state law forbidding school districts from enforcing mask mandates was unconstitutional.

"What we here in the Tucson Unified School District firmly believe, and firmly stand on strong legal footing, is that Senate Bill 2898 -- the legislation enacted by this legislature and supported by the governor banning mask mandates and stealing away local control from local school districts and governments -- violates the Arizona constitution," he told CNN's Ana Cabrera. "The Arizona Constitution requires a 90-day wait period for any new piece of legislation to go into effect -- 90 days from the end of the legislative session. That would make the law inactive until Sept. 29."

Trujillo also discussed a letter from 26 Arizona Republican lawmakers that calls on Gov. Doug Ducey to pull state funding from any school that imposes a mask mandate.

"Regardless of the bluster and the language of letter, we return to the constitutionality of this legislation that was passed and we stand firm in our belief that this law does not exist at this particular time," Trujillo said.

TUSD is far from alone in Arizona -- nearly a dozen K-12 districts in the state have implemented mask mandates of their own, along with the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Gov. Doug Ducey's office said the flurry of recent mask mandates are "toothless, unenforceable and will not hold up in court."

Trujillo criticized the governor's stance on CNN Thursday.

"Our governor, who promised local control and autonomy so we could navigate the waters of the pandemic according to local conditions, has done a stunning about-face and has supported the banning of mask mandates from local school boards -- similar to what we've seen from the governor of Florida the governor of Texas -- and it is a contradiction to a legislature and a governor that has touted local control," he said.

Watch Trujillo's full appearance on CNN in the player below: