SALT LAKE CITY — A pediatrician's group is asking a judge to block a Utah law prohibiting schools from issuing K-12 mask mandates.
The American Academy of Pediatrics filed a "friend of the court" brief in a lawsuit brought by a group of parents and the Concerned Coalition of Utah, challenging Utah's laws that severely restrict mask mandates in schools in the COVID-19 pandemic. In their filing, the organization urges the judge to grant a restraining order that halts the law from being enforced.
"Universal mask policies substantially reduce the risk of death and serious illness among Utah’s school-age population and their families, and in particular among children with medical conditions such as Plaintiffs," the group said in its amicus filing. "HB 1007 puts Plaintiffs and all other parents to an untenable choice: either send children to schools where they have a high risk of contracting COVID-19, or keep them home from school with the attendant harm to their social, emotional, and educational development."
The parents sued after the legislature passed a pair of bills related to COVID-19 in schools, arguing that the restrictions against masking harm their at-risk childrens' right to an education under the Utah Constitution. HB1007 specifially prohibits schools from issuing mask mandates. Under another law, a local health department can issue a masking order — but a county council or county commission can vote to override it.
In Grand County, the commission upheld a K-12 masking order issued by the Southeastern Utah Public Health Department. The Salt Lake County Council overturned a K-6 order issued by the Salt Lake County Health Department.
The Utah Attorney General's Office and Salt Lake County have asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit and reject the restraining order request.
The AAP argues in its filing that COVID-19 is more harmful to children with special needs who also benefit more from an in-person education. The group said it supported universal masking policies in schools.
"Mask-wearing is not linked to emotional or psychological harm, particularly when caregivers promote positive associations around mask-wearing. While children can develop secondary anxieties about wearing a mask, this is no different from the possibility of developing secondary anxieties about eating, attending school, or any other activity," the group said. "The risk of developing secondary anxiety, disordered behavior, or refusal to attend school related to masking may be especially high when parents or community members perpetuate false claims that masks are harmful. But there is nothing intrinsic about mask-wearing that makes it particularly harmful, whether physically, socially, or emotionally."
A judge in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court has yet to schedule a hearing on the parents and the Concerned Coalition of Utah's request for a restraining order blocking the laws from being enforced.
Read the filing here: