AR Supreme Court: Circuit Court ‘abused its discretion,’ sides with school district in mask appeal case

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA)-On April 14, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued an opinion siding with the Bentonville School District in its appeal case regarding their mask policy in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A trio of parents had filed suit alleging that the district’s policy “violated the parents’ constitutional rights,” that the district “lacked authority to issue its school policy,” and that the parents “suffered irreparable harm.” The Circuit Court had issued a temporary restraining order against implementing the policy.

On September 10, 2021, the parents filed a petition for declaratory judgment and damages in the Benton County Circuit Court. The filing also sought a permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of the district’s mask policy.

The Circuit Court issued an injunction on October 12, 2021, ruling that “the district policy violates the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights and was enacted without proper authority.” The district then appealed that ruling.

In an affidavit filed with the court, the district stated that they had heard from “parents, students, and medical professionals” who favored implementing their mask policy. In today’s opinion, the court stated that it saw this as “a real or substantial relation” to protecting students’ health.

The ruling also noted that Arkansas state statutes “allow for a school’s broad authority to determine its policies.” It added that the policy did not violate parents’ “fundamental rights” and that there was no proof of “irreparable harm” while adding that “we hold that the circuit court abused its discretion” in finding that the district policy violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights .

The opinion concluded by reversing the Circuit Court’s decision and remanding “for the entry of an order consistent with this opinion.”

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