State Watch

Missouri attorney general threatens lawsuits over school mask mandates

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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) on Tuesday announced that he would be suing school districts that have continued to enforce mask mandates on students, claiming that “COVID-19 poses very little risk to children.”

“School districts have never been given the authority by the legislature to enact public health orders like mask mandates or quarantine orders — the recent Cole County judgment just further affirms that fact,” Schmitt said in a statement. “The decision to mask children in school should rest solely with parents and families.”

In November, Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel R. Green ruled that only elected officials have the authority to issue mask mandates

“Missouri statutes give elected legislative bodies, not individual health agency directors, authority to create county-wide laws related to communicable disease,” Greene said at the time, according to KWMU.

In December, Schmitt, who is currently running for U.S. Senate, sent letters to public school districts to stop enforcing public health guidelines that were affected by Greene’s ruling.

“Some school districts dropped their mask mandates and quarantine orders, but others continue to defy the law, despite the fact that COVID-19 poses very little risk to children. My Office is currently finalizing lawsuits against all non-compliant districts to end the forced masking of schoolchildren, which will be filed later this week,” Schmitt said.

School mask mandates became a hot-button topic in GOP-controlled states, with many school districts in states like Texas, Florida and South Carolina remaining defiant against threats from the state government to drop their mask mandates.

Last month, Kelvin Adams, the superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools, appeared to similarly remain resolute against Schmitt’s orders, telling parents in a letter that his district “does, in fact, have the authority to require masks and we will continue to do so because we know that every layer of prevention works in keeping our students and staff safe.”

Though children are less likely than adults to develop severe symptoms when infected with the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there is still some risk that a child will experience severe illness or complications.

Of the children who were admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19, about a third were admitted to the intensive care unit, roughly the same rate as adults. And despite being less likely to experience severe illness, research has indicated that children are capable of spreading the virus at similar rates as adults.

Tags COVID-19 Education eric schmitt Lawsuit mask mandates omicron school mask mandates

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