Masks are off, but Iowa schools continue to deal with lawsuits
Iowa school districts no longer require masks, but they're still facing leftover legal battles from their COVID mitigation strategies back in 2020.
Driving the news: New court filings from a parent's lawsuit against the Ankeny school district show the unprecedented legal challenges schools faced as they navigated their response to the pandemic.
State of play: Kimberly Reicks, an Ankeny mom who's organized anti-mandatory masking protests at the local and state levels, sued the district in June 2021, seeking monetary damages and claiming her free speech rights were violated.
- Reicks believes her vocal protests resulted in district officials targeting her daughter, according to the lawsuit.
Catch up fast: Reicks said in fall 2020, she sent her 6-year-old daughter to kindergarten at Northeast Elementary in a paper face mask. At that time, the district was mandating masks and classes were hybrid.
- Reicks said that her daughter started developing a skin irritation that she believes was caused by her "constantly touching" and "licking the inside of the mask," despite telling her not to, according to a Facebook post submitted to the court.
It cleared up following antibiotics. But Reicks claims the rash came back when her daughter was required to wear a mask all day once Ankeny returned to full-time, in-person classes in late fall.
- Eventually, she said it elevated to a staph infection, though medical experts have said there's no link between masks and staph.
After getting a doctor's note granting a medical exemption from masks, Reicks said the school's principal, Laura Ryan, required her daughter to stay six feet away from other kids and sit at a desk with plexiglass.
- Ultimately, Reicks said that led to isolation and emotional damage for her daughter, and she pulled her kids out of the district.
What they're saying: Alan Ostergren, Reicks' attorney, tells Axios their lawsuit isn't about whether mandating masks was right or wrong.
- He says they're suing because they believe the Ankeny school district violated Reicks' First Amendment rights and isolated her daughter in retaliation for her public protests against masks.
The other side: Lawyers for Ankeny contend there's no proof the mitigation efforts were done in retaliation. Rather, the district was trying to do its best in an unprecedented situation and protect students from COVID-19.
What's next: The district is requesting a summary judgment, which Reicks opposes.
- A hearing is scheduled for April 22.
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