/ Modified aug 13, 2021 5:01 p.m.

Lawsuit argues state ban on mask requirements in schools is unconstitutional

Legislature wrongly tacked "hodgepodge" of policies to the state budget, lawsuit says.

360 cap dome pretty The dome atop the Arizona Capitol Museum at the State Capitol in Phoenix. January 2021.
AZPM Staff

A teachers union, school board association and several parents are suing the Arizona government over new laws that bar schools from requiring students to wear masks.

The lawsuit argues the Legislature violated Arizona’s constitution by tacking the policies on to the state budget.

The constitution says each piece of legislation should concern only one issue.

But the lawsuit argues legislators turned the budget into a hodgepodge of unrelated policy changes, adding various provisions -- such as the ban on school mask requirements -- to win the votes needed to pass the spending plan.

"Never before has the legislature so ignored the normal process and procedure for enacting laws as they did this session," the lawsuit says.

The legal challenge comes amid an increase in COVID-19 cases across the state and some of the plaintiffs raised concerns about sending their children back to the classroom.

Despite recent legislation, several school districts and universities across Arizona have required students to wear masks, including Tucson Unified School District and the University of Arizona.

More than two dozen Republican lawmakers responded this week by calling for the governor to withhold funding to the schools.

Among the plaintiffs filing the lawsuit are the Arizona Education Association, the Arizona School Boards Association, several parents, teachers, university faculty and state Sen. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix.

The lawsuit also challenges several policies unrelated to COVID-19 that were included in the budget over opposition from Democrats, such as a measure that takes away some legal powers from the secretary of state and another that restricts how teachers can talk about race in the classroom.

These provisions did not belong in the state budget, either, the lawsuit argues.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Mark Brnovich said his office would defend the laws.

“It is disappointing that special-interest groups are once again trying to undermine Arizona’s lawfully enacted statutes and indoctrinate our children with critical race theory," Katie Conner said.

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