ST. LOUIS – St. Louis area school districts and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt are battling while the St. Louis County Council once again considers a mask mandate.
The Rockwood School District is one of the multiple school districts now in a legal battle with Schmitt over the ability to enforce health orders like mask mandates. Schmitt said Tuesday that all COVID-19 public health orders are null and void after a recent ruling by a Cole County judge.
Schmitt sent letters to school districts and public health agencies across Missouri saying they must rescind and stop enforcing public health orders like mask mandates and quarantines. Specifically, Schmitt contends that school officials don’t have the authority to enact or enforce health orders. He said if school districts and public health agencies don’t rescind the orders he may take legal action against them including potential lawsuits.
“What this provides is a reset for us at this point, to get back to a place where individuals and families and parents can make these decisions,” Schmitt said. “If they want to send their kid to school in a mask, they can do that. If they don’t want to send their kid to school, they do not have to do that. I mean, this is still America and I think people are tired of this.”
However, school districts FOX 2 spoke with did not immediately alter their policies. In fact, letters were sent to families in the Rockwood and Parkway school districts articulating that, at this point, neither district plans to change its COVID protocols including mask requirements. Both districts did indicate that they will review their policies.
Parents FOX 2 spoke with outside Pattonville Heights Middle School were surprised at the attorney general’s action.
“I think this is very interesting. There are still a lot of children getting sick and I just don’t understand the reasoning behind it,” said parent Cothella Williams Wright. “I mean, we always wear our masks, so I mean, I don’t get it. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Another Pattonville parent, Britt Benson, added, “I just don’t think it right to sue the public schools. I mean that’s just, it seems like a violation of their rights.”
Meanwhile, the mask mandate controversy was front and center Tuesday night at the St. Louis County Council meeting. Council Member Lisa Clancy called for a vote on a countywide mask mandate, but other council members including Tim Fitch objected saying that trying to do the entire process in just one meeting violates legislative protocols, state law, and the Cole County ruling. No action was taken. The proposal could come back to the council at some point.
A spokesperson for Schmitt said at this point there is no timeline for when any legal action might be taken against school districts or health authorities that don’t comply with Schmitt’s demands.