ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has sued several school districts that reinstated mask mandates for students.
The districts named in the suit are listed below. You can click the link to view the petitions against each district.
“It is truly unbelievable that schools, without any authority whatsoever, are making the decision to reimpose mask mandates on school-age children,” Schmitt said in the release.
He argued that masks bring "negative impacts" on children such as "loss of learning, mental health issues, social isolation, and more." He cited a presentation from a group of doctors in giving more reasons for filing the lawsuits.
In January, Schmitt, a candidate for Missouri's open U.S. Senate seat, filed a lawsuit against 36 school districts in the state over mask mandates, claiming the districts were "defying laws" by requiring students to wear masks in school.
Schmitt dismissed the lawsuit against the school districts in March, as many dropped mask requirements when COVID-19 case numbers started to drop. At the time, Schmitt's office spokesman Chris Nuelle said that Schmitt would refile the suits if the districts reinstated the mandates.
The new lawsuits argue that school districts do not have the delegated authority by the state legislature to impose mask mandates over trigger rules set by increasing case numbers.
These triggers mean that once a school district hits a certain number or percentage of COVID-19 cases, mask mandates and other health protocols methods come into place as a way to slow the virus' transmission.
The suits also state that "school districts do not have the authority to impose, at their whim, public health orders for their schoolchildren."
5 On Your Side reached out to each of the school districts for comment:
- Maplewood Richmond Heights School District: "The Maplewood Richmond Heights School District is committed to ensuring the safety of our students, staff and community. We feel these new lawsuits do not recognize the obligation of school boards to address the transmission of communicable diseases in schools and their responsibility to maintain a safe school environment. We believe these lawsuits continue to be a distraction to school leaders regionally who are already taxed with efforts to keep school doors open and students safe. The lawsuits filed by the Attorney General do not reflect a prudent use of taxpayer funds nor the human resources required to address them. It is our hope that we can focus our efforts where they matter most: navigating the inequities that the pandemic has exposed and educating our students. This is our moral purpose."
- School District of Clayton: "We are aware that Missouri's Attorney General has posted on his website and social media that he is suing to prevent the District from following our board-approved mitigation plan and requiring our students and staff to wear face coverings in schools that are experiencing a surge in cases of COVID-19. We have not been officially served. Once that happens, we will work with our attorneys to review the lawsuit and respond appropriately.”
- Webster Groves School District: The district's chief communications officer told 5 On Your Side Friday evening that the district has not received the lawsuit yet.
- Ladue School District: "We have just learned about the Missouri Attorney General's website post and regret his intent to sue our public school district in the last week of this school year in an attempt to prevent the district from implementing our school board of education's approved mitigation plan and requiring our students and staff to wear face masks in schools that are currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. We have not been officially served. However, if or when that does happen we will work with our attorneys to respond accordingly."
- Special School District of St. Louis County: "SSD is aware that we were named in a lawsuit; however, we have not been officially served. Once that happens, we will work with our attorneys to respond appropriately."
- Mehlville School District: The district said it will not issue a statement until it has been served. Director of Communications Jessica Pupillo confirmed the district had not been served as of Thursday evening.
This story will be updated as each school district responds to the lawsuit.