Missouri’s attorney general files class action lawsuit focused against school districts masking

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 11:58 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 at 12:03 PM CDT
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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit Tuesday that seeks to stop school districts from enforcing mask mandates, requirements aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“It makes learning more difficult. There’s a German study that shows 68 percent of kids who are wearing masks had complaints ranging from irritation to severe social and psychological issues,”says Schmitt.

The lawsuit names Columbia Public Schools along with the district’s Board of Education and board members, but is a class action lawsuit that “would apply to school districts across the state that have a mask mandate for schoolchildren,” said Chris Nuelle, a spokesman for Schmitt.

The new school year began Monday in several districts across the state, and with the delta variant causing a big spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, more than four dozen districts are requiring students, teachers and staff to wear face coverings. The lawsuit filed by Schmitt, a Republican, cites the low death rate among school aged children.

“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,” Schmitt said in a news release.

Phone and email messages left with a spokeswoman for Columbia Public Schools were not immediately returned.

The full complaint can be found here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/2021-08-24---columbia-schools-petition-file-ready.pdf?sfvrsn=b365e116_2

He says he hasn’t seen any widespread evidence or study that shows masking kids has any benefit.

“It’s true that the delta variant is more contagious. The good news is the health outcomes are similar especially for kids. What we know is that every death is a tragedy but there have been no kids under the age of 10 who died of COVID,” he said.

The White House disagrees.

“We’ve seen including recently I think today or yesterday in Missouri additional steps taken, that in our view, put more kids at risk. The president thinks that’s completely unacceptable. He has asked his secretary of education, directed, I should say his secretary of education to use all of his authority to help those school districts doing the right thing, to ensure everyone of their students has access to a fundamental right of safe in-person learning,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Schmitt believes that the mandate is government overreach.

“If a parent feels more comfortable doing it that’s one thing. But for a government to make that decision or a school board to make that decision, it’s just not supported by the evidence or the science. That’s my job is to protect people’s rights as the attorney general and I’m going to fight for the people every step of the way,” he said.

Springfield Public Schools issued this statement regarding the lawsuit:

The unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Missouri, where vaccination rates remain alarmingly low, and children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. In our case, SPS is working in consultation with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department to ensure our protocols align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Our decisions are supported by local data reflecting the impact of COVID-19 here in Springfield.

Schmitt successfully sued to stop St. Louis County’s mask mandate. He has also filed suits against mask requirements in St. Louis city, Kansas City and Jackson County.

Southwestern Missouri has been the epicenter of this summer’s outbreak of COVID-19. But since the delta variant of the virus began its rampage in June, cases have spread across the state. Now, the Bootheel region of southeast Missouri is under siege.

Information on Missouri’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that six of the 12 counties with the highest seven-day rates of new cases are in the southeast — Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi, Madison, Jackson and Perry counties.

Cape Girardeau’s two hospitals are treating a combined 76 COVID-19 patients, including 24 in intensive care units, according to information from St. Francis Medical Center and Southeast Hospital.

The death toll continues to rise with another 170 deaths reported by the state health department. Of them, 143 were the result of a weekly review of death certificates. One of those deaths was in May, two were in June, 35 were in July and 105 were earlier in August. The state also cited 27 new deaths, and 1,770 newly confirmed cases. Missouri has reported 618,022 COVID-19 cases overall.

A central Missouri mayor meanwhile pushed for his friend to be given an anti-parasite drug not approved for treating COVID-19.

The Kansas City Star reported that Lake Ozark Mayor Dennis Newberry wrote on Facebook Monday that the friend should be allowed to take ivermectin in a last-ditch effort to save him.

“Please pray for cooperation from his caregivers and hospital admin to allow his loved ones and friends to step in and assist with his life. If we do nothing his life will surely be taken from his 18 year old son, his family and friends,” Newberry wrote.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved ivermectin to treat some parasitic worms and for head lice and skin conditions in humans, and other preparations of the drug are used to treat and prevent parasites in horses. The FDA has not approved ivermectin for treating or preventing COVID-19.

By Tuesday morning, Newberry’s post had been removed. A phone message left with Newberry wasn’t immediately returned.

An estimated 300,000 people attended the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia over the 10-day period that ended Sunday, but just 53 took advantage of an on-site COVID-19 vaccination clinic, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“Obviously we’d love to have vaccinated 1,000 people,” Pettis County Health Administrator JoAnn Martin told the Post-Dispatch. “But we are glad we made the effort.”

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