Hearing set in Pulaski County parents' suit on mask rule

A hearing was set for 9:45 a.m. Friday in a lawsuit that seeks to block enforcement of a new Arkansas law prohibiting state and local governments, including public school districts, from requiring individuals to wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic.

The complaint, filed Monday evening, against Act 1002 of 2021 has been assigned to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox.

The plaintiffs, who are two Pulaski County parents represented by Rogers attorney Tom Mars, asked for a temporary restraining order that would prevent the state from "enforcing, or encouraging other public officials" to enforce the law, as well as a permanent injunction to the same effect and a declaratory judgment that the law is "facially unconstitutional," or unconstitutional as applied to kindergarten-through-12th grade public schools.

"Given that Arkansas public schools will begin classes in approximately two weeks, Plaintiffs cannot afford to wait any longer to see if the executive and legislative branches of government will fulfill their duty to protect the people of Arkansas and the health and welfare of children who attend public schools," the introduction to the lawsuit filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court reads.

"Knowing that many more children will get infected with COVID and that more will likely die if the ban on mask mandates is not lifted, Plaintiffs respectfully turn to the Arkansas judiciary for protection from an irrational act of legislative madness that threatens K-12 public school children with irreparable harm."

The plaintiffs, Veronica McClane and Ashley Simmons, each have two children under 12 who are enrolled in "public schools that would impose a face mask mandate but for the prohibitions of Act 1002," the suit said.

The suit names as defendants the state, as well as the top House and Senate leaders and Gov. Asa Hutchinson in their official capacities.

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