Judge refuses – for now – to grant restraining order against Phoenix Union’s mask policy

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates answers questions Monday about the board’s decision not to respond to the latest Senate subpoena. With him is Chairman Jack Sellers /Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media 

A new mandate by Phoenix Union High School District that students and staff wear masks remains in effect, at least for the time being, as do similar policies being adopted by other districts.

That’s because Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner declined Wednesday to issue a temporary restraining order after an attorney for the district told him that there’s no law being violated – at least not yet, if ever.

But that doesn’t end the fight.

Warner did not rule on the claim by a teacher at Phoenix Union that the law banning schools from imposing mask mandates is in effect. But he did not grant a request by Alexander Kolodin, the teacher’s attorney, for an immediate restraining order to bar the district from enforcing its new policy.

Warner wants to hear more evidence at a hearing set for Aug. 13.

At that time he could decide whether a retroactivity clause in the statute applies.

And even if he agrees that no one is violating the law as of right now, he still could bar future enforcement.

Mary O’Grady, who represents the district, does not dispute that a provision in the state budget makes it illegal for school governing boards to require the use of face coverings by students or staff during school hours and on school property. That same measure also prohibits city, town or county officials from enacting similar mandates for what happens on school property.

A separate provision says school district and charter schools cannot require a student or teacher to receive a vaccine for COVID-19 or wear a face covering to participate in in-person instruction.

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