LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas judge has struck down the state’s law prohibiting schools and other government entities from requiring masks.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox issued the ruling on Wednesday, December 29, months after he temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the ban.
The ban is commonly known across Arkansas as Act 1002.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the bill into law in April, though he has since said he regretted that decision.
A few months after signing it into law, Governor Hutchinson called the legislature into a special session to amend Act 1002. Ultimately, legislators voted to keep the law in place. Though the ban is now permanently blocked as a result of Judge Fox’s ruling Wednesday.
More than 100 public charter schools and school districts imposed mask mandates following Fox’s ruling in August, though many have since eased or lifted them altogether. Private schools were not barred from requiring masks under the law.
Governor Hutchinson provided a statement to KNWA/FOX24 following Judge Fox’s decision Wednesday.
I am pleased with the decision of Judge Fox. The ruling that Act 1002 is unconstitutional serves as a restraint against the legislative branch and helps reset the correct balance between the branches of government. The ruling also makes it clear that local school boards have the authority to protect the health of students during this pandemic. I am in favor of schools and local government having the authority to keep students and their constituents safe as we see another surge in Covid-19 cases.”GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON, (R) ARKANSAS
Judge Fox’s block on the ban allows not only schools to implement mask mandates but also cities, like Rogers. Though the city does not have a mandate right now, it has had one in the past.
Mayor Greg Hines of Rogers provided KNWA/FOX24 with a statement in response to the judge’s decision Wednesday.
While I agree with the judges ruling, I’m certain an appeal is iminent. This should be a local issue and by local, I mean school boards and city councils, which is a basic principle of conservative politics. We are seeing an unprecedented time of state legislatures bending to a small but very vocal segment of the population, which doesn’t lead to good public policy.”MAYOR GREG HINES, ROGERS
Dr. Riad Khairy is an Infectious Disease Specialist at Baptist Health-Fort Smith. He said, from a scientific standpoint, he is in favor of masking up, especially right now.
“As schools are starting next month, I do believe that we should have a mask mandate, especially for school kids — and to keep our businesses open,” he said.
Dr. Khairy emphasized the protection masks provide for not only ourselves but our loved ones, as well as our local businesses and schools.
“It doesn’t have to be mandated, but it is a common sense,” Dr. Khairy said. “It’s a first line prevention.”