Iowa City schools files lawsuit against the state, seeking local control of school reopenings

The school district, which was denied a waiver from the state to begin classes online, will challenge the governor’s 50-percent in-person learning requirement in court.


Jake Maish

A sign for the Iowa City Community School District is seen outside the district’s administration building on Tuesday, April 28.

Rylee Wilson, News Editor

The Iowa City Community School District, along with the Iowa State Education Association have filed a lawsuit against the state, seeking the ability to control school reopenings at the local level. 

On July 17, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a proclamation requiring school districts to provide at least 50 percent of instruction in person. 

Prior to Reynolds’ proclamation, the ICCSD planned to offer classes online-only through Oct. 1. 

The ICCSD sought a waiver from the state to begin the school year online, which was denied on Aug. 6. 

In a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Jay Hammond, general council for the Iowa State Education Association, said the lawsuit is not seeking court decisions on whether to open or close specific schools. 

“The relief we are seeking – what we are asking the court to determine, is that ultimate authority to determine the content and to effectuate the content of a plan for a return to school lies with individual school boards of every school district across the state of Iowa,” Hammond said. 

Hammond said the lawsuit is alleging that Reynolds violated her responsibility under the Iowa constitution to protect the health and welfare of the citizens of the state by requiring schools to offer 50 percent in-person instruction, as well as exceeded her authority under Senate File 2310 in ordering the number of in-person instruction hours a school must have. 

Brady Shutt, president of the Iowa City Education Association and a social studies teacher at Liberty High School, said in the news conference that local control of school reopenings is essential during the pandemic. 

“We strongly believe that COVID-19 pandemic has enforced the critically important right and need of local authorities and local elected officials like our school boards to do what is right for the health and safety of their community,” Shutt said. “Late in the game proclamations and guidance, like we have seen from the state of Iowa, have the effect of imposing a one-size-fits-all approach at the very moments where local decision making should be protected and prioritized.” 

The ICCSD will start the school year in a hybrid model to comply with the current orders from the government. Shutt said the board voted unanimously to go through with the lawsuit at its meeting Tuesday evening. 

“It’s clear to our school board that they differ in that interpretation and implementation of Senate File 2310. It was also important to them, as they’ve done throughout this process, that they follow the law and the guidance in the proclamation,” he said. 

Hammond said the lawsuit is seeking a temporary injunction in order to restrain enforcement of the proclamation to get a decision quickly. 

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