Arkansas lawmakers passed Act 1002 of 2021 which prohibits state and local governments, including school boards, from requiring people to wear masks. The law went into effect on July 28.
With the surge in COVID-19 numbers, Governor Asa Hutchinson called legislators into a special session this week, asking them to provide an exception to the law that would grant each school board the authority to decide whether to require students younger than 12 years of age to wear a mask. Arkansas lawmakers ended the special session with no changes to the existing mask mandate ban.
On Friday, August 5, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox heard a case brought by the Little Rock School District, Marion School District, and parents challenging the state law that prohibits school districts from requiring masks/face coverings. Judge Fox granted a restraining order that temporarily blocks the state from enforcing the mask mandate ban. Further legal proceedings are expected. Those proceedings could begin in days or weeks.
As Arkansas’s highest court, the Arkansas Supreme Court will likely have the final word on this issue. Having the benefit of guidance from the Arkansas Supreme Court will allow the Bryant School Board to make the best possible decision for the benefit of the district’s students, families and staff. Bryant Public Schools’ administration will continue to closely monitor the legal proceedings in this case and provide further updates to the board. The timing and duration of further legal proceedings may dictate the timing of any review of this matter by the Bryant School Board.