Kansas City Schools Receive Cease-and-Desist Letter Over COVID Protocols in Defiance of AG

Several school districts in Kansas City, Missouri, have received cease-and-desist letters from Attorney General Eric Schmitt over the enforcement of COVID-19 protocols for students and staff.

Lee's Summit School District has confirmed to Newsweek that it received one of the letters but added that it disagreed with Schmitt's claims.

"The District will be responding through its legal counsel, and is prepared to defend in court its duty under Missouri law to protect the health and safety of its students and staff," a district spokesperson wrote.

Local outlets are reporting that Schmitt sent letters to over 30 districts across the state this week ordering them to stop enforcing mask mandates and quarantine orders, which violate a decision made last month by a Cole County judge.

On November 22, Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled that all exiting local health orders were illegal and should be lifted, citing the state constitution's separation of powers clause.

In response, Schmitt, a Republican who is running for a Senate seat, issued a statement acknowledging the ruling and said his office was "prepared to enforce compliance with the court's order across the state."

In the weeks following Green's decision, Schmitt sent a letter notifying school officials that protocols in place would violate the ruling and that schools failing to comply would be investigated by his office.

Schmitt doubled down on schools still enforcing protocols this week with a cease-and-desist letter.

In the letter sent to Lee's Summit, obtained by Newsweek, Schmitt said his office received a complaint from a parent in the school district alleging that schools were still enforcing mandates.

"Let me assure you that I take any refusal by school officials to abide by the court's order and comply with state law very seriously," Schmitt wrote to Superintendent David Buck. "I will engage the full resources of the Missouri Attorney General's office to ensure that no student will have his or her rights violated by unlawful and unconstitutional mandates."

Missouri Schools COVID Mask Mandate Cease Desist
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent cease-and-desist letters to school districts for enforcing COVID-19 protocols this week. Above, people, some in masks, head to a St. Louis Cardinals game on August 3, in St Louis. Spencer Platt/Getty

In response, the district's legal counsel sent a letter to Schmitt, stating that the attorney general has "no legal authority to direct the District to cease and desist what it is doing to mitigate COVID. You cite no such authority in your letter, because there is none."

"While the District acknowledges that people have certain rights, it teaches its students the fundamental notion that rights must be balance against the obligation to exercise them responsibly, and in a manner that does not violate the right of others," counsel wrote in a Friday letter obtained by Newsweek.

"Your invocation of 'rights' untethered to an obligation to exercise them responsibly invites lawlessness," the district added. "This is especially pernicious coming from your office, because of the outsized weight some may attach to your opinions."

"The duly elected Lee's Summit R-7 Board of Education will not abandon its statutory duty to govern the operations of the school district," the letter concluded.

Lee's Summit is not the only district in the Kansas City–area that will continue to enforce their COVID-19 policies in defiance of the latest letter.

North Kansas City Schools told WDAF that it plans to continue following its existing protocols, saying legal review has determined no immediate change is currently necessary.

Other districts have already changed their policies in response to Smitt's legal threats. On Thursday, the attorney general announced that the Odessa School District would lift its mask requirement effective immediately.