Bill bans mask mandates in public schools

Angela Black, right, with her brother Luke Black at their home, pose for a photo Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Mesa, Ariz. The students, a third grader and kindergartner, attend a school where mask wearing is optional. /AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

By Kyra Haas | Arizona Capitol Times

Republican lawmakers did an about-face on facemasks in schools in the most recent version of the state education budget bill. 

The initial language, one line of the deal Gov. Doug Ducey hammered out with Senate and House Republican leadership in May, would have codified school districts and charter schools having the final authority on face mask requirements. 

The new language does the opposite and would permanently prohibit school districts and charters from requiring facial coverings. Individuals would still be able to choose to wear them. 

The change came after lawmakers such as Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, and Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, threatened to withhold their votes. 

“And to think until I publicly exposed it, Fauci Followers in the AZ Senate Leadership along w/@dougducey were almost successful in sneaking language into the budget giving school districts the power to force students to wear masks for any reason & for as long as they want,” Michelle Ugenti-Rita tweeted on June 5.  

School districts and charters have had that individual responsibility since April. That’s when Ducey rescinded his executive order from July 2020 that required them to implement a face covering requirement for everyone over the age of 5. 

The change was met with confusion and, in some cases, outrage, as districts made individual decisions on how to handle their masking policy roughly five weeks before the end of the semester.   

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