Missouri AG files suit against schools with mask mandates

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FILE – In this May 18, 2021 file photo, fifth graders wearing face masks are seated at proper social distancing during a music class at the Milton Elementary School in Rye, N.Y. As the nation closes out a school year marred by the pandemic, some states are now starting to release new standardized test scores that offer an early glimpse at just how far students have fallen behind — with some states reporting that the turbulent year has reversed years of progress across every academic subject. New York, Georgia and some other states pushed to cancel testing for a second year so schools could focus on classroom learning. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

COLUMBIA, Mo.– Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a class-action lawsuit against school districts forcing a mask mandate on schoolchildren and teachers.

The lawsuit names Columbia Public Schools, the Board of Education for the School District of Columbia and the board members, and the Superintendent of Columbia Public Schools as defendants.

There are several districts in the St. Louis area that have mask mandates in place including Parkway, Rockwood, Affton, Lindbergh, Kirkwood, Ladue, St. Louis Public Schools, Fox C-6, Mehlville.

The lawsuit, which is a reverse class-action suit, is based on these three counts:

  • The imposition of a mask mandate on children is arbitrary and capricious
  • The mask mandate is subject to MO statute 67.265
  • The mask mandate is unlawful as to schoolchildren

The lawsuit argues that children are at an extremely low risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, that children are at a low risk for spreading COVID-19, that mask fail to provide adequate protection against COVID-19 in children, masks are detrimental to the development of young children.

“Forcing schoolchildren to mask all day in school flies in the face of science, especially given children’s low risk of severe illness and death and their low risk of transmission. Additionally, forcing schoolchildren to mask all day could hinder critical development by eliminating facial cues and expressions,” said Attorney General Schmitt in a statement.

Schmitt says the lawsuit cited data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services that zero children under the age of 10 have died from COVID-19. The suit also points out children make up less than 1 out of every 100,000 people who are hospitalized in Missouri.

The suit even sites data from the United Kingdom shows the fatality rate from the Delta variant is lower than other variants.

The latest numbers from the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force shows there are 21 children under 18 who are in task force hospitals with COVID. Seven are in ICUs, the highest number since those figures started being released by the task force.

When it comes to the efficacy of masks, the suit argues, ” “Mask use by the general population shows, at best, a marginal impact on the spread of COVID-19. And most studies show no distinguishable difference between places with mask mandates and those without them.”

The lawsuit also argues that masks are a hindrance to development, especially in young children and those with special needs.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released guidance to schools earlier this summer and says mask mandates should be left up to local school districts/board. You can read DESE’s guidance here.

The suit also notes that the Columbia school districts continue to impose a mask mandate despite the Columbia City Council’s rejection of a citywide mask mandate

Schmitt goes on to say, “we filed this suit today because we fundamentally don’t believe in forced masking, rather that parents and families should have the power to make decisions on masks, based on science and facts.”

You can read the entire lawsuit here.

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