Attorney General Eric Schmitt encouraged parents to identify school districts continuing to impose COVID-19 mandates after a court order restricted them from enforcing certain mandates.
Schmitt instructed local public health agencies and school districts to halt mask and quarantine mandates in a letter Tuesday, pointing to the recent decision nullifying officials’ ability to impose them under a health department regulation. The letters encouraged immediate action and warned of potential consequences should those orders continue to be enforced.
The Republican official said several parents had reached out about districts’ continued non-compliance since the letters were sent. Schmitt encouraged parents to report those districts by emailing email@example.com.
“Yesterday, I informed local public health authorities and school districts about the recent judgment in Cole County Circuit Court that declares public health orders issued by local public health authorities and school districts null and void and instructing those health authorities and school districts to rescind those orders and cease enforcement and publicizing of those orders. Since then, we’ve heard from parents that school districts are continuing to enforce mask mandates and quarantine orders, in violation of the recent Cole County order,” Schmitt said. “Parents are sick and tired of the stonewalling from their school districts, and so am I.”
The State Board of Education briefly discussed Schmitt’s letters during a meeting Tuesday, noting the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) would continue monitoring the situation before issuing any orders of its own.
“Data shows that case rates and positivity rates are increasing. … This is leading to additional quarantines and a few extra school closures,” DESE spokeswoman Mallory McGowin said during the meeting. “It would be an understatement [to say that the order] has created quite a bit of additional confusion and questions for schools. That ruling continues to be examined.”
Last month, a Cole County judge said the Department of Health and Senior Services’ regulations allowing the state health director and local health agencies to implement “control measures” were unconstitutional. The regulations allowed health directors to close schools or places of public assembly in the interest of protecting public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Judge Daniel Green deemed those existing orders invalid in his decision.
The judgment said health orders during the pandemic, such as mask mandates in schools or business closures, have varied by county and impacted individuals differently based on where they reside. Some mandates went into effect without public comment, Green said.
The chorus of Missouri Republicans concerned about the impact of local public health orders resulted in a new state law this year that set time restrictions on how long certain orders can remain in place without approval by governing bodies.
Schmitt has also gone to bat with Missouri schools over their COVID-19 policies this year, suing Columbia Public Schools and backing a successful challenge against a Jefferson County district’s mask and quarantine policies.
Schmitt, a U.S. Senate hopeful, encouraged lawmakers to pass a “Parents’ Bill of Rights” next session, advocating for increased control over their students’ health care decisions, requiring students to consent to scans and recordings, and allowing access to their children’s medical and mental health records. The idea would also expand parents’ access to their schools’ curriculum.
Cameron Gerber studied journalism at Lincoln University. Prior to Lincoln, he earned an associate’s degree from State Fair Community College. Cameron is a native of Eldon, Missouri.
Contact Cameron at firstname.lastname@example.org.