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TUSD to require masks for students, teachers and staff

The schools in southern Arizona’s largest district return to the classroom Thursday
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Masks(engin akyurt | Unsplash)
Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 9:27 AM MST|Updated: Aug. 4, 2021 at 2:36 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Tucson Unified School District on Wednesday, Aug. 4 became the largest district in Arizona to require masks despite a new law.

TUSD’s Governing Board voted 4-0 early in the morning to require face masks for all students, teachers and staff. The district’s schools return to the classroom Thursday, Aug. 5.

The requirement is in defiance of HB 2898, which prohibits Arizona’s public schools from requiring face masks.

TUSD, which oversees 89 schools and more than 47,000 students, is the third school district in the state to make such a requirement. As of 2 p.m. Aug. 4, no other district in southern Arizona is requiring masks. Many are suggesting them, but not requiring them.

“We expect school districts to obey the law,” Gov. Doug Ducey’s office said Wednesday. “The law is clear. The Governor’s position is clear. Arizona is not anti-mask. It is anti-mask mandate.”

Phoenix Elementary District (14 schools and 5,000 students) and Phoenix Union High School District (22 schools and 28,000 students) are the others.

Phoenix Elementary’s governing board voted Monday night to approved the requirement while Phoenix Union’s governing board did it last week.

The state law was enacted in June but the legislation doesn’t go into effect until Sept. 29. According to the Associated Press, it did have a provision saying “the prohibition is retroactive.”

It’s not clear if the state’s prohibition is now in force. A legislator who supports the prohibition has asked government lawyers to say when it takes effect.

Phoenix Union has already been hit by a lawsuit over the mask mandate, by one of its own teachers.

According to AZ Family, Metro Tech biology teacher Douglas Hester filed a lawsuit against the district.

“What is important is making sure that the government is not above the law,” said Hester’s attorney Alexander Kolodin. “We’re just asking the court to say, one, the policies and procedures that the Phoenix Union High School District have enacted are unlawful and they can’t do it anymore.”

The suit doesn’t (and can’t) seek monetary damages (although it does request attorneys’ fees).

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