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Judge: Arkansas's mask mandate law is unconstitutional

An Arkansas judge struck down a state law that prevents schools and other governmental entities from requiring face masks.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas judge on Wednesday struck down a state law that prevents schools and other governmental entities from requiring face masks.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox had already temporarily blocked the law in August. On Wednesday, he ruled the law unconstitutional on multiple grounds, including that it discriminates between children in public and private schools. 

Private schools were not barred from requiring masks under the law. 

More than 100 public charter schools and school districts in Arkansas imposed mask mandates following Fox’s ruling in August. 

Many have since eased or eased their requirements altogether.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the ban into law in April, though he has since said he regretted that decision and has said he agreed with Fox’s initial ruling against the ban. 

Hutchinson faced heavy opposition from fellow Republicans in August when he proposed rolling back the ban.

Fox's ruling comes as COVID-19 cases are again on the upswing in Arkansas. 

On Tuesday, the state reported more than 2,400 new cases of the virus and an increase of 51 hospitalizations.

Gov. Hutchinson released the following statement regarding the judge's decision:

“I am pleased with the decision of Judge Fox.  The ruling that Act 1002 is unconstitutional serves as a restraint against the legislative branch and helps reset the correct balance between the branches of government. The ruling also makes it clear that local school boards have the authority to protect the health of students during this pandemic. I am in favor of schools and local government having the authority to keep students and their constituents safe as we see another surge in Covid-19 cases.”