Twenty-six Republican members of the Arizona Legislature signed a letter drafted by Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) asking Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to take four steps of action in regard to several school districts that appear to be violating state law by imposing mask mandates in schools.

A high school biology teacher recently filed a lawsuit over the mandate implemented by Phoenix Union High School District. The school districts contend the law, A.R.S. 15-342.05, doesn’t apply yet since bills do not go into effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, but the bill contains a retroactive clause.

“It borders on anarchy and destabilizes the very foundation of our society to have local governments effectively refusing to comply with the law. It must not be allowed to stand,” the legislators said. “Any local government that willfully and intentionally flaunts state law must be held accountable.”

First, the legislators want the governor to withhold federal funds from the school districts. Second, they want him to set up temporary Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) to allow students to leave the districts and attend school elsewhere. Third, they asked Ducey to send a letter to the families with children in those school districts advising them of the retroactive June 30 effective date of the law banning school mask mandates, the temporary ESAs, and the variety of alternative learning options available. Finally, the legislators want Ducey to sue the noncompliant school districts.

There are similar battles taking place in other red states between governors or legislatures that have banned mask mandates and school districts that implemented them in defiance of the laws. In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said he may withhold the salaries of the school officials responsible. One of the school districts, Leon County, backed down, allowing parents to opt their children out of the mandate.

During an interview with Dan Bongino on Fox News, DeSantis explained he made the decision based on evidence.

“The CDC comes in and says every single person in a school – students, teachers, staff – have to be masked at all times. That is not consistent with the evidence. That is not data-driven,” he said. “I think if the CDC had its way, I think they’d probably have kids in masks indefinitely.”

Not all doctors recommend mandatory masks for children. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons opposes them and has a lengthy analysis of their effectiveness and negative health implications on its site. It references “Psychological Damage in Children,” linking to an article about 70 Belgian doctors pleading to remove a mask mandate from schools.

Several Arizona universities and colleges implemented mask mandates within the last few days. Ducey issued a statement on August 12 in response saying they are “toothless, unenforceable, and will not hold up in court.” He went on, “COVID has been with us for well over a year and a half now, and Arizonans are educated about it. If they want to wear masks, they should absolutely do so. It’s an individual choice. No one and no law anywhere in Arizona is stopping anyone from wearing masks.”

The letter was signed by the following Republican legislators:

  • Representative Jake Hoffman
  • Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham
  • House Majority Whip Leo Biasiucci
  • Representative Brenda Barton
  • Representative Walt Blackman
  • Representative Shawnna Bolick
  • Representative Judy Burges
  • Representative Joseph Chaplik
  • Representative John Fillmore
  • Representative Mark Finchem
  • Representative Steve Kaiser
  • Representative Quang Nguyen
  • Representative Becky Nutt
  • Representative Jacqueline Parker
  • Representative Beverly Pingerelli
  • Representative Bret Roberts
  • Representative Justin Wilmeth
  • Senate Majority Whip Sonny Borrelli
  • Senator Nancy Barto
  • Senator Sine Kerr
  • Senator David Livingston
  • Senator J.D. Mesnard
  • Senator Warren Petersen
  • Senator Wendy Rogers
  • Senator Kelly Townsend
  • Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at the Arizona Sun Times and The Star News NetworkFollow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to rachel.r.alexander@gmail.com.
Photo “Doug Ducey” by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 3.0, photo “Jake Hoffman” by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 3.0 and photo “Phoenix Union High School” by Visitor7 CC BY-SA 3.0.