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Schmitt suing school districts with mask, quarantine mandates

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Attorney General Eric Schmitt will file lawsuits against multiple school districts that enforce mask mandates and quarantine orders, his office said. 

The Republican attorney general sent cease and desist letters to more than 50 schools in December, instructing them to halt COVID-19 mandates that may have been nullified by a recent court decision. The Attorney General’s Office said “some” districts halted the mask and quarantine orders but others did not. 

The office said it will file lawsuits against the districts this week. A number of just how many districts will be sued was not immediately available. 

“It’s far past time that the power to make health decisions concerning children be pried from the hands of bureaucrats and put back into the hands of parents and families, and I will take school district after school district to court to achieve that goal,” Schmitt said. 

Late last year, Cole County Judge Daniel Green said the state’s health department regulations allowing Missouri’s 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 pandemic. The judge declared those orders void. 

Soon thereafter, Schmitt said school officials do not have the authority to implement mask, quarantine, or other public health edicts. In a letter to the districts, Schmitt said local public health agencies had been instructed to halt their COVID-19 orders following the Cole County ruling and told districts to “stop relying on, enforcing, or publicizing any such orders immediately.” 

The Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) said the judge’s order impacted orders from local health departments, but “a school district’s authority and obligation to prevent the spread of contagious diseases in schools has not been impacted.”

The Jefferson City School District and Columbia Public Schools recently reinstated mask policies as the omicron variant has spread. 

“Regardless of any threats issued today, Kansas City’s school mask rule applies to school buildings in our city and we will defend it in court, if and as necessary. We will prevail, as we have in all COVID-related litigation throughout the pandemic,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said on social media.

In Missouri, nearly 53,000 positive cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the past seven days along with at least 30 deaths. 

According to the New York Times COVID-19 case and testing tracker, Missouri is reporting more new, positive cases in January than at any other point during the pandemic. Hospitalizations have also spiked since the end of December. 

About 58 percent of Missouri’s eligible population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Missouri’s health department. 

Schmitt is running for U.S. Senate in Missouri.