ST. LOUIS — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed lawsuits against 36 school districts across the state to stop them from enforcing mask mandates. Most of those school districts are in the St. Louis area.

Schmitt referred to such mandates as the “Illegal masking of kids.” Some of the districts being sued are Rockwood, Francis Howell, Fort Zumwalt, St. Charles, St. Louis Public Schools, Clayton, Mehlville, and Ladue.

Seventy-six parents joined Schmitt in filing lawsuits against some of the districts in the state.

FOX 2’s Vic Faust asked the attorney general why he feels this is of major importance.

“I think what we know now is there is no data to support that masks are effective,” Schmitt said. “But we do know there is a body of mounting evidence that shows the psychological and social harms from the forced masking of kids. We’re taking them to court on behalf of parents so families can make these decisions themselves.”

When asked about his critics, Schmitt said: “The truth of the matter now is these restrictions don’t work. In places most restrictive, if case numbers are your measure they have gone up. Cloth masks are ineffective. If you want to do it. Do it. But you shouldn’t force everyone to do it.”

FOX 2 contacted the local schools that have been sued by the state’s top attorney. They all pretty much said they are aware of the suit and consulting their attorneys. However, the Francis Howell School District said they feel they have the legal right to establish mask requirements.

Faust also asked Schmitt about St. Louis City extending its mask mandate three weeks today.

“It’s illegal,” Schmitt said. “They don’t have authority to do so. The general assembly has never given school districts’ authority to force mandates and quarantine. The omicron is a much milder variant than delta was, and the good news here is kids just aren’t getting as ill in numbers as significant.”

The Francis Howell School District responded to the attorney general’s lawsuit with a statement that reads in part:

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’s students and staff.

Francis Howell’s leadership said elected officials should celebrate supporting schools during this challenging time — not sue them. The district called the Schmitt lawsuit a waste of taxpayer money.