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Lawsuit dropped after Jefferson County school district alters coronavirus policies 

The lawsuit against a Jefferson County school district is being dropped amid changing COVID-19 policies while the county’s health department remains embroiled in its own legal battle.

The Fox C-6 School District Board of Education voted this week to use the district’s internal case data rather than the county’s when considering health policies. 

While masks will still be recommended, they will no longer be required in individual school buildings with a COVID-19 positivity rate below 2 percent beginning Thursday. 

“This change in the masking policy means that there is a possibility that some schools may have a masking requirement while other schools do not, based on the COVID positivity rate in those individual buildings,” Superintendent Paul Fregeau said in a notice to the district. “If an individual school building reaches a 2 percent positivity rate, the school’s principal will communicate that information with families as soon as possible.”

Masks will still be required on buses under federal guidelines

A lawsuit against the district, filed with the Jefferson County Circuit Court last month, sought to stop the district from enforcing quarantine and masking rules on students. The challenges were filed on behalf of two Jefferson County parents who said the order could have negative impacts on their children and other students. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, the county’s state representative, in her role as an attorney. Coleman said the legal team moved to dismiss their suit against the school Wednesday after the board’s vote. 

Coleman also filed a lawsuit against the health department on the parents’ behalf, a challenge that saw Judge Victor Melenbrink order the department to advise schools its recommendations regarding quarantine procedures are not binding mandates and to stop distributing a quarantine form that “misleads parents” by Thursday. 

A Fox C-6 School District spokesperson said the policy requiring unmasked students who have come in close contact with a positive case outside of school to quarantine for 14 days if not fully vaccinated, regardless of test results, would remain in effect as a school policy, not a county mandate. 

“Our legal action against the forced masking of children at Fox School District, together with the court’s ruling against the Jefferson County Health Department for misleading parents, are directly responsible for the school district finally taking responsibility for its COVID-19 restrictions and creating school-specific solutions that do not require masks and for which parents can hold them accountable,” Coleman told The Missouri Times. 

The challenge against the county health department, which drew support from Attorney General Eric Schmitt, is ongoing. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 9. 

Public health orders have come under scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among Republican officials. A bill signed into law earlier this year restricted local officials from enacting health orders hindering access to schools, businesses, and churches beyond 30 days during a six-month period amid a state of emergency. Those orders could be extended by a majority vote of the local governing body.