States Infographic

Which States Ban Mask Mandates in Schools, and Which Require Masks?

By Stacey Decker — August 20, 2021 | Corrected: November 22, 2021 | Updated: November 29, 2021 1 min read
Image of a face mask on school notebook.
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Corrected: This page has been updated to include New York on the list of states requiring masks.

The 2021-22 school year is underway while a volatile debate plays out in school board meetings, courtrooms, and at all levels of government: Should schools require masks?

Masks are a proven way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention support universal masking in schools. But requiring masks has drawn the ire of some parents and community members who argue that students or their parents should decide whether or not to wear them.

Where do states stand?

As of Nov. 15, nine states have banned school districts from setting universal mask mandates. Those bans are in effect in three states. In the remaining six states, mask mandate bans have been blocked, suspended, or are not being enforced. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia require masks be worn in schools.

State-wide mask policies may include exemptions for certain districts, schools, groups, or individuals.

See Also

School children in classroom with teacher, wearing face masks and raised hands
DigitalVision/Vectors/Getty

States that are going against the advice of public health experts and banning school districts from enacting universal mask mandates have policies that vary. Some forbid districts from setting mask mandates. Others require districts that have them to allow students or their parents to opt out for any reason, effectively preventing a universal requirement.

State-wide mask policies have been defied by individual districts and are facing challenges in court. Some have been blocked, suspended, or are no longer being enforced. And the Biden administration is launching an investigation into mask bans in multiple states on civil rights grounds on behalf of students with disabilities.

To capture the current state of this shifting landscape, Education Week—using information from local media reports—is providing this at-a-glance view of which states ban school districts from setting universal mask mandates, which of those bans are currently in effect, and which states require masks.

The list below will be updated regularly.

School Mask Mandates at a Glance

  • As of Nov. 15, nine states have banned school districts from setting universal mask mandates. Those bans are in effect in three states. In the remaining six states, mask mandate bans have been blocked, suspended, or are not being enforced. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia require masks be worn in schools.

  • MASK MANDATE BAN IN EFFECT


    1. Florida

    On Sept. 22, Florida's surgeon general instituted a rule that gives parents and legal guardians "sole discretion" over masking in schools. On Nov. 5, a judge sided with the state health department in a legal challenge to rule. On Nov. 18 Gov. DeSantis signed a bill that allows parents to sue school districts that require masks.

    2. Oklahoma

    On Sept. 1, an Oklahoma judge temporarily blocked the state law banning school mask mandates, but students or their parents can still opt out of school mask mandates if they choose.

    3. Utah

    In Utah, local health departments can issue 30-day school mask mandates with approval from the state or county government, according to the state’s top education official.

    MASK MANDATE BAN BLOCKED, SUSPENDED, OR NOT BEING ENFORCED


    1. Arizona

    On Sept. 27, a judge in Arizona blocked the state laws banning mask mandates that were set to take effect on Sept. 29. On Nov. 2, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

    2. Arkansas

    In Arkansas, a judge paused the state law that prohibits local officials from setting mask mandates, meaning school districts can—at least for now—set their own local mask requirements.

    3. Iowa

    On Sept. 13, a federal judge ordered Iowa to halt enforcement of its law banning mask mandates in schools. The order was later extended.

    4. South Carolina

    On Sept. 28, a federal judge suspended South Carolina from enforcing the rule that banned school districts from requiring masks for students.

    5. Tennessee

    On Nov. 14, a federal judge ordered the temporary suspension of a new Tennessee law that prevented schools from issuing mask mandates.

    6. Texas

    On Nov. 10, a federal judge stopped Texas from enforcing Gov. Greg Abbott's mask mandate ban.

    MASKS REQUIRED


    1. California
    2. Connecticut
    3. Delaware
    4. District of Columbia
    5. Hawaii
    6. Illinois
    7. Louisiana

    According to a State of Emergency proclamation issued Nov. 23, students are required to wear masks in schools, but districts can opt out of the mandate if they adopt an isolation and quarantine policy consistent with the state's department of health protocols.

    8. Maryland
    9. Massachusetts

    On Oct. 26, Massachusetts extended the mask requirement through Jan. 15. On Sept. 27, Massachusetts said schools can apply for a waiver from the face covering rules if 80% of their students and staff have been vaccinated. If a school reaches the 80% threshold, unvaccinated students and employees are still required to wear masks.

    10. Nevada
    11. New Jersey
    12. New York
    13. New Mexico
    14. Oregon
    15. Pennsylvania
    16. Rhode Island
    17. Virginia
    18. Washington
  • Updated 11/29/2021 | Sources: Local media reports | Learn more here

Evie Blad, Staff Writer; Hyon-Young Kim, Senior Digital News Specialist; Holly Peele, Library Director; and Lesly Salazar, Digital News Specialist contributed to this article.

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