State Watch

Missouri AG files class action suit against school districts enforcing mask mandates

Greg Nash

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) filed a class action lawsuit Tuesday against school districts enforcing mask mandates against state law.

The complaint, filed in a Missouri state court, argues that such mandates are “not supported by the science and are an arbitrary and capricious measure.”

He is asking the court to declare the mask mandates “unlawful as to school children.”

“Despite the science, some public school districts require all students to wear a mask on school buses, school property, and while engaging in school activities. These mask mandates are arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and unlawful, and such measures are unsupported by data or science,” the complaint states.

The complaint specifically names Columbia Public Schools, the district’s board of education and its members as defendants. The school district began requiring students and staff to wear masks indoors Aug. 16.

The suit also lists as a class “public school districts and their boards of education,” as well as the “superintendents of the public school districts.”

Michelle Baumstark, chief communications officer for Columbia Public Schools, told The Hill in a statement that the district is “extremely disappointed to learn that the Missouri Attorney General has chosen to pursue litigation against the school district for providing safety measures for its scholars, teachers, and staff members.” 

“The decision to file suit against a public school district after a local decision is made in the interest of safety and keeping students in school will waste taxpayer dollars and resources, which are better spent investing in our students. Columbia Public Schools intends to aggressively defend its decision to keep its community and its scholars safe,” Baumstark said.

Missouri doesn’t ban school districts from imposing mask mandates, unlike other GOP-led states such as Florida and Arizona. However, guidance released earlier this month states that decisions on mask mandate should be kept at the local level, according to The News Tribune.

In June, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) signed legislation that prohibits officials from implementing public health orders that place restrictions on the opening of public and private places — or leads to them being partially or fully closed — longer than 30 days during a public health emergency.

Schmitt’s complaint alleges that masks are a hinderance to development, especially in young children with special needs. He further argues that science shows children are at “significantly lower risk” of contracting serious illness due to COVID-19.

“There is no evidence that Defendants considered the underlying data, science, and evidence that fail to justify issuing a mask mandate for schoolchildren at this time,” the suit says.

Schmitt, who is running for the Senate, has also sued St. Louis County and city, Kansas City and Jackson County over their mask mandates. A Missouri circuit judge ruled last week that St. Louis County could not impose its mask mandates.

—Updated at 6:29 p.m.

Tags Face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States

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