Reynolds is Fighting the Wrong Battle


Merideth Langton

Kennedy reinstated a mask mandate following Judge Pratt’s restraining order on Iowa’s ban on mask mandates in schools.

The first day of school for the CRCSD was Aug. 23. After 19 days of school, COVID-19 notifications have become routine. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds continues to fight Iowa schools’ attempts at COVID-19 mitigation. 

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pratt issued a temporary restraining order on Iowa’s mask mandate ban in schools on Sept. 13. Pratt sided with several parents of high-risk children. The parents argued that the school mask restrictions may violate schools’ legal obligations to provide equal learning opportunities to all students, including those who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19. 

As Reynolds mask ban was overturned she fired back promises to overturn Judge Pratt’s ruling. Once again she is refusing to consider the safety of school-aged children, relying on the idea that they will make the right choice for everyone. School-aged kids are highly susceptible to peer pressure, making it difficult to always make the right choice. As a high school student, I understand the pressure to fit in. Students worry about standing out if they wear a mask when surrounded by their maskless peers.

Reynolds’ decision to ban establishments from enforcing mask mandates in May 2021 came alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) now outdated recommendations that those fully vaccinated did not need a mask. What Reynolds calls protecting Iowans’ rights is putting thousands of students, teachers and their families at risk. 

“I am proud that we recently put new laws in place that will protect Iowans against unnecessary government mandates in our schools and local governments. As I have throughout this pandemic, I trust Iowans to do the right thing,” Reynolds said.

Trusting Iowans to do the right thing has not proven effective. According to the Iowa Government, the daily average for the week of Sept. 7 was 1,434 COVID-19 cases, the highest it has been since mid-January. People between the ages of zero and 17 account for 29% of the new cases. In comparison, in Illinois where there is a mask mandate in schools, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported less than 15% of their new cases were in the same age demographic. 

Now we have the help of a mask mandate in our schools after Judge Pratt overturned Reynold’s  ban. Perhaps our numbers will follow Illinois’ lead.

Reynolds defended her ban on mask mandates in a press conference on Sept. 2. She claimed some children have severe adverse reactions to masks. She did not give examples of these reactions. Instead of a general mask mandate, Reynolds recommended high-risk children speak with their physicians and wear more protective masks or choose an online schooling option. 

Reynolds prioritizes children who may have a bad reaction to wearing a mask to those who are at a high risk of having a severe reaction to COVID-19 that could lead to permanent health issues or even death.

Reynolds’ recommendation that high-risk students enroll in online schooling does not provide students with equal opportunities. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) in person cannot be replicated in an online format. This puts these students at a disadvantage.

“Distractions, as well as unequal access to wifi, makes online learning more problematic for families that tend to have fewer resources to begin with,” Michelle Frye, Kennedy Language Arts teacher, said. 

Students online deal with a lack of social interaction. In the classroom, students are able to ask questions and talk with their classmates to learn. A computer screen limits this key aspect of learning. The Cedar Rapids Academy does not offer all the classes we offer at Kennedy high school.

Reynolds chose to defend a person’s right to put themselves and others at risk of COVID-19, but will not protect students’ rights to equal educational opportunities. Reynolds refused to even recommend students wear masks. Now it is mandated and she continues to fight against the CDC’s recommendations.

When the ban on mask mandates went into effect, the CDC said that fully vaccinated people did not need to wear a mask. This recommendation has been changed to recommend even the fully vaccinated wear a mask due to a COVID-19 Delta variant surge. The CDC performed multiple studies that found masks are an effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools. 

While the death rate in children might not be as high as adults, students who catch COVID-19 at schools bring it back to their households. By sending kids back to school without requiring masks, Reynolds is not only endangering students but their families as well.

I was a student who wore a mask when it was not required. I felt my heart rate rise, scared to breathe, as I  wondered if my mask would be enough amongst a sea of my maskless peers. What if I got COVID-19 and it spread to my parents, my sister or my grandparents? What if someone in my family had to go to the hospital even though I was doing everything I could to slow the spread of COVID-19 but my teachers and classmates did not?

6,401 Iowans already lost their lives to COVID-19. How many more have to die before Reynolds cares?