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HF 847 Temporary Restraining Order FAQs
What was the claim made in the federal lawsuit, The Arc of Iowa et al vs. Reynolds et al that is currently in federal court?
In this lawsuit, The ARC of Iowa, a non-profit organization representing the rights of people with disabilities, joined together with a group of parents of children with disabilities to claim that Iowa House File 847 (codified as Iowa Code § 280.31), which prohibits school districts from adopting, implementing, or enforcing a policy that requires its employees, students, or members of the public to wear face coverings, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This lawsuit was brought against Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa Department of Education Director, Ann Lebo, and ten Iowa public school districts.
Among other forms of relief, the plaintiffs (parties who brought the lawsuit) asked the court to issue orders (first, a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction) stopping the State of Iowa from enforcing Iowa Code § 280.31.
Was Ankeny Community School District involved in the lawsuit?
Yes, the Ankeny Community School District is a defendant in this lawsuit.
The plaintiffs characterize the defendant-school districts, including the Ankeny Community School District, as “indispensable but not adverse parties.” Generally, this means that they recognize that the laws and directives preventing school districts from requiring masks for any student or employee come from the state of Iowa, and not from any individual school district.
What has happened so far in this lawsuit?
The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in federal court on September 3, 2021. On September 10, 2021, United States District Judge for the Southern District of Iowa, Robert Pratt, held a hearing on the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order. On September 13, 2021, Judge Pratt issued an order granting the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order.
Has the judge in this case made any decisions yet?
Yes. On Monday, September 13, 2021, Judge Robert Pratt issued an order granting the Plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order, or a “TRO.”
In this Order, the judge ordered that “Defendants Governor Reynolds, Director Lebo, and the school districts are ENJOINED from enforcing Iowa Code section 280.31 banning local public school districts from utilizing their discretion to mandate masks for students, staff, teachers, and visitors.” The judge also said that the order would “issue immediately.”
What does this decision mean for the Ankeny Community School District?
This Order means that the Ankeny Community School District has the authority to make a local decision about whether to require masks on district property.
The Order does not tell local districts how they must respond to this decision, but states that, in the court’s opinion, “[I]t is essential that to reduce the transmission of the virus causing COVID-19 in schools, all adults and children, whether vaccinated or not, wear masks when indoors.”
What’s a TRO?
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65 gives federal courts the authority to enter Temporary Restraining Orders, or TROs. A federal court can issue a TRO when it determines that “immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the movant [in this case, Plaintiffs] before the adverse party [in this case, Defendants] can be heard in opposition.”
As the order in this case says, “In determining whether to enter a TRO, the Court evaluates four factors: ‘(1) the threat of irreparable harm to the movant; (2) the state of the balance between this harm and the injury that granting the injunction will inflict on other parties litigant; (3) the probability that movant will succeed on the merits; and (4) the public interest.’”
How long will the TRO be in effect?
The Order provides that the “Temporary Restraining Order shall remain in full force and effect until the Court enters an Order on Plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction.” Therefore, the order will remain in effect until a new order is issued on the request for a preliminary injunction.
We do not yet know the date on which an order related to the request for a preliminary injunction will be issued.
If this lawsuit was brought on behalf of students with special health concerns and special education needs, does this judge’s order only apply to students who have IEPs and/or 504s?
No. The judge’s order enjoins (or stops) the state from enforcing Iowa Code 280.31. It does not say that the defendants are only enjoined from enforcing the law as it relates to students with special health needs.
Additionally, in his order, the judge says that “The data further shows it is important for all students, staff, and teachers to wear masks to reduce the spread, not merely those who are most vulnerable to severe illness and death.” And, he says that, “[I]t is essential that to reduce the transmission of the virus causing COVID-19 in schools, all adults and children, whether vaccinated or not, wear masks when indoors.”
What happens next? Will this decision be appealed?
Under law, a temporary restraining order (TRO), cannot be appealed. The next order issued by the judge, a Preliminary Injunction, could be appealed, however. On the day the TRO was issued, Governor Reynolds issued a statement indicating that she intends to appeal, if needed. Therefore, we anticipate that, if the Preliminary Injunction is similar to the TRO, it will be appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
What will happen in our district if the Preliminary Injunction is different from the Temporary Restraining Order? What about if the case is appealed to a higher court?
As we always strive to do, the Ankeny Community School District will follow the law. For now, the TRO is binding on our school district. If this changes, either because of the Preliminary Injunction and/or because of an appeal, we will work with our legal counsel to determine the appropriate course of action.
This lawsuit mentions the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). What is that?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.” Title II of the ADA applies to school districts and “requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities (e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting, and town meetings).” You can learn more about the ADA by visiting www.ada.gov.
This lawsuit mentions the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). What is that?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is “a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities and ensures those children receive special education and related services to those children.” You can learn more about IDEA by visiting https://sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/.
What governing body will we follow when making decisions around safety measures?
Will we utilize any other learning models this year such as hybrid or remote learning for the full district? Will the decision-making matrix be used?
Will there be any efforts from the district to work with the Governor on making masks a requirement for those buildings with students under the age of 12?
Will lunch be back to usual and can any mitigation be practiced? Can students eat lunch outside?
6-12: Lunch will be back to its standard practice. Principals may make adjustments based on what they learned over the past year to make their schedules work better for students.
Will visitors be allowed in the buildings?
What is the plan this year for getting students in and out of the building, especially at the Elementary levels? Will there be traffic personnel to help?
Will lockers be available for use? Can students carry backpacks?
Will water fountains be open for use? Are kids going to continue to be encouraged to bring their own water?
Will students be changing for gym this year?
Will the free lunch program continue this year?
How will you ensure that everyone’s choice of mitigation practices are encouraged and protected?
Can the Ankeny School District Annual Notice of Nondiscrimination please include vaccination status to its list of protected classes?
Will schools be implementing strategies for staggered arrivals or dismissals to cut down on hallway crowding?
Can we see the vaccination rates by age and zip code?
How will mitigation measures be addressed in comparison between athletics and activities? For example, at times it appeared this past year that some sports received different mitigation measures than some of the fine arts.
Why are meet-the-teacher events only one night for each school, without any mitigation or staggering of guests?
Will there be an online option for those who can’t be vaccinated?
How do you plan to support learning for those students who miss weeks of school due to COVID-19 infection as well as students whose parents choose to have them quarantine when exposed?
If we elect to homeschool initially, can we enroll in the district when we are comfortable returning? What supports are available from the district for homeschooling families?
Health and Safety
What is the current guidance regarding quarantining students?
Will teachers be allowed to break their contract if they have concerns regarding health and safety in the workplace?
Can the school perform temperature screening to provide one safeguard against COVID and other illnesses at the school until vaccine access is available to all ages?
What screening for illness will occur if a student exhibits symptoms?
To what extent will social distancing be implemented?
Should kids be bringing their own hand sanitizer?
What is the current guidance regarding contract tracing?
Will I be notified if my child is exposed? How will I be notified when my child has had a known exposure?
How will we be informed of a COVID-19 outbreak at our child’s school?