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.
Over the course of the pandemic, states have adopted a range of policies around mask wearing in K-12 schools.
On Feb. 25, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed their long-standing recommendation around universal indoor masking in schools. Now, the agency recommends universal masking in public settings, including schools, only in areas at high risk of serious illness or strained health-care resources.
Where do states stand?
According to an Education Week analysis, as of May 16:
- Six states have bans in effect that prevent school districts from setting universal mask mandates.
- Five additional states have such bans, but they have been blocked, suspended, or are not being enforced.
- One state (Hawaii) requires masks to be worn in public schools, down from a high of 18 states and the District of Columbia earlier this school year.
State-wide mask policies may include exemptions for certain districts, schools, groups, or individuals.
States 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 of these policies have been blocked, suspended, or are no longer being enforced.
The lists below show which states ban school districts from setting universal mask mandates, which of those bans are currently in effect, and which states require masks or have required masks in the past.
This page will be updated regularly.
MASK MANDATE BAN IN EFFECT
MASK MANDATE BAN BLOCKED, SUSPENDED, OR NOT BEING ENFORCED
MASK REQUIREMENT IN EFFECT
PREVIOUSLY HAD MASK REQUIREMENT
In January 2022, the Missouri attorney general, Eric Schmitt, sued some school districts that required masks, citing a November ruling by a county judge that said local health orders tied to COVID-19 were illegal. (The ruling was interpreted differently by different districts.) The state’s treasurer announced he would also crack down on schools with mask mandates. In mid-March, Schmitt began dropping lawsuits against school districts that no longer required masks. On May 19, 2022 Schmitt announced new lawsuits against several districts that had reinstated mask requirements.
On Feb. 23, 2022, New Hampshire’s governor announced the state was no longer recommending universal indoor masking and therefore schools have to end mask mandates, arguing they violate state education department rules. Soon after, the department advised districts that the mandates “are inconsistent with” their rules. There’s disagreement over whether districts still have the authority to require masks, but at least one district changed its policy in response. A bill that would have banned mask mandates was vetoed by Gov. Sununu in May 2022.
Updated 5/23/2022 | Sources: Local media reports, Education Week reporting | Learn more here
Evie Blad, Staff Writer; Hyon-Young Kim, Senior Digital News Specialist; Holly Peele, Library Director; and Lesly Moore, Digital News Specialist contributed to this article.