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Missouri Attorney General sues Johnson County districts over mask policies

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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed lawsuits against three Johnson County school districts to halt those districts from illegally enforcing mask mandates.

Schmitt made the announcement Friday that he, along with 76 parents as plaintiffs in certain cases, had filed 36 separate lawsuits against districts across the state. Among the districts are Holden, Kingsville and Warrensburg. 

Last month, following a recent Cole County ruling, the Attorney General’s Office opened up an inbox for parents to report non-compliant districts. According to a news release, the Office has received more than 11,000 email submissions and has sent a number of school districts to non-compliant school districts. Some have dropped their mask mandates while others chose to continue their mask requirements.

“Mask mandates in schools are illegal, they simply don’t work, and they contribute to alarming and negative psychological impacts on our children,” Schmitt said in the release. “My Office has been on the frontlines of the fight to end the forced masking of children all day in school, and today we took concrete legal action toward that end. Parents and families, not bureaucrats, should have the power to decide what’s best for their children. With this litigation, we’re seeking to return that power back to parents and families, where it belongs.”

In December, the Attorney General’s Office sent a letter to school districts and local public health authorities informing them that local public health orders regarding the coronavirus are null and void because of a recent Cole County Circuit Court judgment. The letters stated the entities must rescind their orders. Entities that received complaints through the AG’s office also received a cease and desist letter.

Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled that orders such as quarantines and business closures violate the Missouri Constitution's separation of powers clause affecting the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

On Tuesday, Schmitt issued a statement saying he was finalizing lawsuits against all non-compliant districts and claimed that COVID-19 poses little risk to children. 

“School districts have never been given the authority by the legislature to enact public health orders like mask mandates or quarantine orders — the recent Cole County judgment just further affirms that fact. The decision to mask children in school should rest solely with parents and families,” Schmitt said in Tuesday’s statement. “... It’s far past time that the power to make health decisions concerning children be pried from the hands of bureaucrats and put back into the hands of parents and families, and I will take school district after school district to court to achieve that goal.”

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