MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reports we are losing ground as COVID-19 cases are spiking yet again across the region and state. Despite this, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is demanding that school districts across the state end their mask mandates immediately.
Most districts in St. Louis County have mask mandates and other COVID protections in place. The state attorney general sent a letter to districts across the state demanding they stop those orders, following a Cole County judge’s ruling last month.
“The judgment’s pretty clear here about the existing orders, if there are any, are null and void, number one. And number two, they just simply don’t have authority to do it,” Schmitt said.
A Cole County judge last month said health orders related to COVID-19 should be lifted because they are unconstitutional and illegal. The state AG said if districts don’t rescind their COVID health measures, he’ll sue them.
“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.”
Some school districts we contacted to get reaction said they had not yet received the letter others said they would not make any comment until their lawyers reviewed the letter. 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.”
Pattonville parent Britt Benson added: “I just don’t think it right to sue the public schools I meant it just seems like a violation of their rights.”
The Parkway School District released a statement to parents saying said it would keep COVID protocols in place and discuss the matter at a Dec. 15 school board meeting. The Rockwood School District said it had received the letter and would keep mitigation strategies in place until its lawyers reviewed the letter. FOX 2 has obtained an email from the Rockwood district to all parents in guardians, which you can read below in its entirety.
Dear Rockwood Parents and Guardians,
As you may have already heard, the Missouri Attorney General, Eric Schmitt, has sent a letter to all Missouri public school districts advising that they do not have the authority to issue mask mandates, quarantine orders or other public health orders and that they should stop enforcement immediately as a result of the Cole County court ruling issued Nov. 22.
Our attorneys continue to advise us that we have legal authority to establish rules and regulations regarding the safety of our students and staff. Therefore, at this time, there will be no change to our mitigation strategies that have served us well since the onset of the pandemic almost two years ago. Having said that, district leaders had already been consulting with health advisors, legal advisors, other area school leaders and the Board of Education over the past several weeks to consider possible adjustments to our mitigation strategies for the second semester.
Once our attorneys have provided us with their full analysis of the Attorney General’s opinion, we will follow up with the Board of Education and our health advisors to discuss any necessary changes to our current mitigation strategies, as well as the plan we are developing for the second semester, which we will be sharing with families early next week.
We will certainly keep you updated should there be any immediate changes to our strategies and procedures. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate and consider this new development while continuing to focus on our goal of keeping students and staff safe, healthy and in school.Tim Ricker, Ed.D. (Interim Superintendent)