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Arizona mask mandate ban ruled ‘unconstitutional’ by Maricopa County judge

Tucson, Amphi, Catalina Foothills, Sunnyside and Nogales USD will keep mask requirements in place
Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 2:31 PM MST|Updated: Sep. 27, 2021 at 3:56 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A Maricopa County judge has struck down a state law that prevents schools from issuing mask mandates.

The ruling, which was released Monday, Sept. 27, claims the law is unconstitutional because of the way it was passed. The law was included in the budget and was set to go into effect Wednesday.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said further action would be taken, but did not say what that would be. The state could appeal the decision, which would mean it would either go to the state appellate court or straight to the state Supreme Court.

Ducey could also call a special session and ask lawmakers to create a solo bill that would ban masks in schools.

Southern Arizona Schools

KOLD News has reached out to every school district in southern Arizona. Below is a list of what each is doing.

  • Tucson USD: The district’s Governing Board voted last week to continue its mask mandate despite the law.
  • Catalina Foothills USD: The district said “we are continuing to require staff and students wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.”
  • Marana USD: The district dropped its mask mandate Tuesday, Sept. 28. The next day, at a special meeting, the board voted to keep masks optional.
  • Nogales USD: The district said it will continue to require masks until further notice and will implement “all other safety measures and CDC safety guidelines for schools.”
  • Sunnyside USD: The Governing Board extended its mask mandate “indefinitely” at a meeting on Tuesday.
  • Amphi Public Schools: The district said it plans to keep its mask mandate in place.
  • Vail USD: KOLD News is waiting to hear back from the district, which never issued a mask requirement.
  • Sahuarita USD: The district, which never had a mask mandate, said “there is no immediate change anticipated to our current practices at this time.”
  • Flowing Wells USD: KOLD News is waiting to hear back from the district, which started its mask requirement Aug. 18.
  • Douglas USD: KOLD News is waiting to hear back from the district, which started its mask requirement Aug. 19.
  • Tanque Verde USD: The district, which never issued a mask mandate, said it has no plans to require masks.
  • Santa Cruz Valley USD: KOLD News is waiting to hear back from the district, which started its mask requirement Aug. 23.
  • Sierra Vista USD: KOLD News is waiting to hear back from the district, which started its mask requirement Aug. 19.

Reaction To Ruling

  • Arizona Governor Doug Ducey -- “We are still reviewing the ruling, but this decision is clearly an example of judicial overreach. Arizona’s state government operates with three branches, and it’s the duty and authority of only the legislative branch to organize itself and to make laws. Unfortunately, today’s decision is the result of a rogue judge interfering with the authority and processes of another branch of government. Further action will be taken to challenge this ruling and ensure separation of powers is maintained.”
  • Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich -- “We will appeal this ruling. It’s unfortunate that left-wing groups want to undermine the legislative process and indoctrinate our children with critical race theory and force vaccines on those who don’t want them.”
  • State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman -- “With this ruling, Arizona school leaders, educators and community members can come together to make the best decisions on public health, safety and education. While some will likely want to challenge today’s ruling, our school communities are tired of being political pawns in dangerous attempts to subvert democracy and ignore science.”
  • TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo -- “Today’s ruling not only celebrates the rule of Arizona constitutional law, it also validates the action taken by our Governing Board on September 23rd to continue a mandatory mask policy in the Tucson Unified School District as fully lawful action taken in the spirit of public health and as a measure necessary to protect the students, staff, and community we serve.”
  • Pima County -- “During a pandemic, governments should use every tool available to protect the public from the spread of the contagious disease. Face masks, distancing, quarantines and vaccines have worked before and they’re working now. That’s why it made no sense for the Arizona Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey to handcuff schools and local governments with foolish prohibitions on sensible mitigation measures. It’s a huge relief that with this ruling by the Superior Court our public schools, county public health agencies and other governments can now assess their potential COVID-19 outbreak and transmission risk and take the necessary steps – including mandates if needed – to protect their students, staff and the public from the continued spread of this disease without fear of penalty or punishment by the state.”

Judge’s Ruling

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