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Missouri attorney general sues St. Louis area school districts over mask mandates

Eric Schmitt is suing several school districts to “halt the unlawful mask mandate in their district.”

ST. LOUIS — After Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced that he planned to sue school districts that require masks, he’s now followed through on that promise.

On Friday, Schmitt tweeted lawsuits his office has filed against school districts across the state, including several in the St. Louis area. Click on the school name to see the full petition.

Schmitt sent out a total of 36 lawsuits against school districts in the state. His lawsuits demand that schools “halt the unlawful mask mandate in their district.”

Thursday, the Francis Howell school board voted to extend the district’s mask requirement through Feb. 4. Fort Zumwalt will require masks for students and staff if a school has more than a 4% positivity rate.

RELATED: Several Missouri school districts have temporarily closed this month

Tuesday, Schmitt accused nearly every school district in the St. Louis region of defying the law by requiring students and teachers to wear masks at school.

Last year, a Cole County judge struck down mask mandates from local health departments and Schmitt says that ruling applies to schools, too.

"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 press release.

With omicron setting new records for COVID-19 cases, several school boards have extended their mask mandates beyond the first of the year. Some school officials have argued they do have the authority to require masks in the classroom.

The Francis Howell School District shared an emailed statement Friday afternoon echoing that sentiment.

"As we’ve said all along, we have consulted with our legal counsel and are confident that our Board of Education has the authority to establish mask requirements and other mitigation measures. The Attorney General is not elected to make decisions for Francis Howell students and staff. That responsibility lies with our locally elected school board members, and the mitigation measures they have enacted helped keep our schools open for in-person learning, which we know is important for our students and families," the statement begins.

Francis Howell officials then say lawmakers, including Schmitt, should support schools, rather than file lawsuits or criticize them for requiring masks.

"Our community and especially our elected officials should be celebrating and supporting schools during this challenging time, not suing them. The lawsuit filed by Schmitt is a waste of taxpayer money – on both sides. The claims are tenuous at best and this unnecessary lawsuit represents another attack on public education in Missouri. This latest action by AG Schmitt is disheartening, unfounded and frankly, shameful," the school district said.

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