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ST. LOUIS–Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt followed through Friday on a pledge made earlier this week to file suit against school districts that he says are illegally issuing mask mandates, beginning with the Francis Howell School District in St. Charles County. By the end of the day, a total of thirty six districts across the state were taken to court.

“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. Last month, I informed a number of school districts that their decision to continue to enforce mask mandates is illegal and must be stopped immediately. Some school districts dropped their mask mandates and quarantine orders, but others continue to defy the law,” Schmitt said in a news release earlier this week. “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.”

The Francis Howell School district returned from the winter break without a mask mandate, but reinstated it five days later after soaring sick rates in district schools. The Board of Education extended it for another two weeks on Thursday.

In a statement, the district said:

As we’ve said all along, we have consulted with our legal counsel and are confident that our Board of Education has the authority to establish mask requirements and other mitigation measures. The Attorney General is not elected to make decisions for Francis Howell students and staff. That responsibility lies with our locally elected school board members, and the mitigation measures they have enacted helped keep our schools open for in-person learning, which we know is important for our students and families.

Our community and especially our elected officials should be celebrating and supporting schools during this challenging time, not suing them. The lawsuit filed by Schmitt is a waste of taxpayer money – on both sides. The claims are tenuous at best and this unnecessary lawsuit represents another attack on public education in Missouri. This latest action by AG Schmitt is disheartening, unfounded and frankly, shameful.

Before noon, lawsuits had also been filed against the Fort Zumwalt and city of St. Charles districts in St. Charles County, St. Louis Public Schools, the Rockwood and Brentwood school districts in St. Louis County the Columbia Public Schools and the Park Hills School district. In a tweet from his personal account, Schmitt, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said the suits were among dozens being filed.