Arizona Teacher Sues Phoenix School District Over Mask Mandate

By Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.
August 4, 2021 Updated: August 5, 2021

An Arizona teacher is suing the Phoenix Union High School District (PXU) and its governing board and superintendent for requiring that students and employees wear masks indoors in defiance of state law.

Douglas Hester, who teaches biology at Metro Tech High School, filed the lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix on Aug. 2, the same day the district’s mask mandate went into effect.

A superior court judge heard arguments on Aug. 4 on whether the school district has legal authority to impose the mask mandate.

Hester’s attorney Alexander Kolodin said the defendants raised a “constitutional argument.”

“[T]hey say they’re preserving it. The judge was very skeptical,” he added.

“I basically went in and called their bluff,” Kolodin told The Epoch Times, adding that the defendants’ main argument was over when the state law goes into effect: in late September or retroactively from June 30 because the legislation included a provision.

“The judge asked the other side, ‘Is that your only argument?'” Kolodin said. “They’re going to have to follow the law now or they’re going to have to follow it in September.”

The district’s attorney, Joshua Bendor, could not be immediately reached for comment by publishing time.

The eight-page lawsuit contends that the mask requirement put in place by the district and its governing board and superintendent, Chad Geston, amounts to an illegal mandate on students and staff.

It also alleges that the defendants have failed to perform their duty to prescribe policies and procedures that are not inconsistent with state law, as they are without or in excess of their jurisdiction or legal authority to mandate masks.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s law, signed on June 30, states that “a school district or charter school may not require a student or teacher to receive a vaccine for COVID-19 or to wear a face-covering to participate in in-person instruction.”

The lawsuit requests that the court declare the mandate contrary to law and issue a restraining order blocking its implementation.

Two other Phoenix school districts, the Roosevelt Elementary School District and the Osborn Elementary School District, announced they will also require masks be worn indoors.

In a July 30 statement, PXU said that its mask requirement was to ensure public health and a safe return for students and staff to in-person learning.

“PXU remains steadfast in our commitment to the health and safety of the staff, students, and communities we serve. We teach and trust science, follow guidelines and recommendations from health experts, and use health data to drive our decisions,” the statement read.

“The science is clear that the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19 and known variants is to get vaccinated. We have and will continue to play a leading role in public health and provide widespread access to the vaccine.”

PXU also said it was also hosting Points Of Dispensing (PODs) vaccinations at eight locations for anyone aged 12 or older.

“We are committed to quality public education and fully recognize the need for in-person learning. Campus health and safety is our top priority as we return next week. To do so, we must and will implement mitigation strategies that minimize spread, reduce quarantining, avoid school closures, and enable us to provide mental health services and engaging opportunities such as clubs, sports, and the arts,” it said.

PXU currently serves about 30,000 students and has 4,000 employees.

A spokesman for Ducey, a staunch opponent of COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates, issued a statement from his office that criticized the mask mandate as unlawful.

“Governor Ducey believes the decision by Phoenix Union requiring masks has no teeth. It’s unenforceable,” the statement read. “School administrators should be doing everything they can to encourage eligible students and staff to get vaccinated, not break the law.”

Arizona health officials on Aug. 3 announced nearly 2,000 new cases of the Chinese Community Party (CCP) virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the total to 933,361. There were 30 new deaths for a total of 18,282 statewide.

Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.