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Missouri attorney general sues more school districts over new mask mandates

Schmitt's suit contends the school districts arbitrarily set a benchmark to require masks

Published: May 20, 2022 4:38pm

Updated: May 20, 2022 8:22pm

(The Center Square) -

The final days of school bring field trips, exams, teachers cleaning out classrooms, and lawsuits from Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

Schmitt filed lawsuits on Thursday against six St. Louis-area school districts for reimposing mask mandates. Four districts – Special School District (SSD) of St. Louis County, Ladue, Webster Groves and Mehlville – end classes next week and Clayton and Maplewood Richmond Heights end in early June.

Schmitt, a candidate for the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, filed complaints ranging from 16 to 18 pages stating COVID-19 is not a serious health risk for most of the population, especially for children and young adults. He also contends most Missourians have some form of immunity to COVID-19 due to vaccination or prior infection.

SSD, the largest specialized education provider in the state with approximately 25,000 students and 5,800 staff, approved a policy in March with thresholds for requiring masks. When the COVID-19 positivity rate is equal to or greater than 1.5% of students and staff, or the St. Louis County community transmission level is high as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines, SSD requires masks in all schools and buildings. The CDC website today reported St. Louis County's positivity at 14.63%, an increase of 1.62% during the last week.

Schmitt's suit contends the school districts arbitrarily set a benchmark to require masks. Schmitt filed lawsuits against 45 school districts in January for requiring masks as the pandemic peaked with the omicron variant. Schmitt dropped the suits when districts ended mask requirements as infections declined.

"It is truly unbelievable that schools, without any authority whatsoever, are making the decision to reimpose mask mandates on school-age children, a decision that flies in the face of science, data, and common sense," Schmitt said in a statement. "Masks simply do not work to stop the spread of COVID-19, and children are at an exceedingly low risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. There are, however, negative impacts on our children from wearing masks all day in school – loss of learning, mental health issues, social isolation, and more. My office will not back down in our fight against mask mandates and will work to return power back to where it belongs: in the hands of parents."

It's widely known Schmitt's son, Stephen, received services from SSD. Schmitt's campaign website states Stephen, who has autism and is non-verbal, was his inspiration to run for office.

Schmitt's campaign released polling results from Remington Research Group on Monday, showing a six-point lead (29%) over Republican Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (23%) for the state's Republican nomination for Senate and an eight-point lead over former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (21%). A poll by SurveyUSA found Greitens at 26%, Schmitt at 17% and Hartzler at 11%. Both polls show approximately 20% of Republican voters undecided.

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