Missouri AG Facing Sanction Call After Suing 45 School Districts Over Mask Mandates

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed lawsuits against 45 school districts in the state over the reintroduction of mask mandates at many of the schools due to rising COVID cases around the time students returned from winter break, and at least one local official has said Schmitt's behavior should be sanctioned.

Schmitt, a Republican who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri, filed 36 suits Friday and another nine on Monday, saying in a press release that the decision for kids to wear masks in schools should be up to parents and not "bureaucrats."

"Masking children all day in school is ineffective and these endless pandemic restrictions lead to lasting, negative psychological impacts on children and teens," Schmitt said in the statement. "This is a fight worth fighting, and I'm not going to back down."

Most of the districts Schmitt is suing are around Kansas City and St. Louis, according to the Associated Press. Many of the districts had removed their mask requirements in December, or made them optional, but had reinstated them around the time students came back from winter break, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The newspaper also reported that many of the districts kept their mandates in place going into this week after being informed of the lawsuits on Friday.

Missouri Eric Schmitt Public School Mask Mandates
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt recently filed lawsuits against 45 school districts in the state over their mask mandate requirements. Above, Schmitt speaks during a news conference in St. Louis on August 6, 2020. Jeff Roberson/Associated Press File

"Our community and especially our elected officials should be celebrating and supporting schools during this challenging time, not suing them," said a statement from the Francis Howell School District, according to the Post-Dispatch.

"The lawsuit filed by Schmitt is a waste of taxpayer money—on both sides," the statement continued. "The claims are tenuous at best, and this unnecessary lawsuit represents another attack on public education in Missouri. This latest action by Schmitt is disheartening, unfounded, and frankly, shameful."

Previous cease and desist letters from Schmitt over the mandates have been met with school officials citing state statutes that allow school boards to issue regulations, according to the Missouri Independent news site.

The Independent also reported that over 60 school districts have closed for at least one day this month because of rising COVID cases.

Some local government officials have questioned whether Schmitt is filing the lawsuits to act in the best interest of Missouri students or to bring more publicity to his Senate campaign.

"Six of the school districts sued today in a clear but unsurprising political stunt educate kids from Kansas City. The majority of them have school buildings in our city, in which our mask rule continues to apply," Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted last week. "We will support our schools, our teachers, and our students."

"Kansas City government and I personally will evaluate all available methods to support our teachers and students in this nuisance litigation," Lucas continued. "Our state lawyer's ongoing harassment of Missouri's schools should be sanctioned by the State Bar."