State Watch

Missouri judge rejects attorney general's lawsuit seeking statewide ban on school mask mandates

A Missouri judge on Tuesday denied state Attorney General Eric Schmitt's (R) motion for a preliminary injunction against a local school district's mask mandate, and also ruled that his recent lawsuit could not generally apply to all school districts in the state with similar mandates. 

Boone County Judge J. Hasbrouck Jacobs decided after a three-hour hearing that he would not grant Schmitt's motion to block the mask mandates issued by Columbia Public Schools and other districts, the Kansas City Star reported

Schmitt filed a class action lawsuit late last month arguing that mask mandates are "not supported by the science and are an arbitrary and capricious measure."

The complaint specifically named Columbia Public Schools, as well as "public school districts and their boards of education," and the "superintendents of the public school districts" imposing mask mandates.  

However, Jacobs said Tuesday that Schmitt, who is currently running for a U.S. Senate seat, could not file a single legal complaint against the mask mandates at various school districts. Instead, the attorney general would have to file a separate lawsuit for each individual district, the judge said. 

Grant Wiens, an attorney representing the Columbia school district, had argued in court Tuesday that "mask requirements that different districts put into place are all individualized to that district," according to the Star. 

However, the ruling did not completely toss out the case, as Jacobs denied Columbia Public Schools' motion to dismiss Schmitt's lawsuit. 

Chris Nuelle, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office, told The Hill, "Our lawsuit against the forced masking of school children will continue." 

"We plan to aggressively pursue discovery in this case to show how bureaucrats have incessantly moved the goalposts to justify never ending restrictions and mask mandates," he added. 

"The people of this state have had enough, and we plan to continue to seek answers," he continued, adding that "while the Court denied temporary relief, this fight is far from over."

Meanwhile, Columbia Public Schools spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said Tuesday's ruling marked a victory for school districts and their right to issue mask mandates to keep school communities safe against COVID-19. 

"Today is a good day for Missouri," Baumstark said in a statement shared with The Hill. 

"Columbia Public Schools will continue to defend our district's ability to implement recommended mitigation measures to keep scholars, teachers and staff members safe and in school," she added.

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