Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (photo, A. Byrd)

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has sued Columbia Public Schools district leadership over mask mandates imposed to fight COVID-19 transmission. In a “reverse class-action suit,” the state’s top attorney is also suing any district that imposes a mask mandate on students and staff.  Read the full complaint here.

Schmitt told Missourinet that the mandate “flies in the face of science, especially given children’s low risk of severe illness and death and their low risk of transmission. Additionally, forcing schoolchildren to mask all day could hinder critical development by eliminating facial cues and expressions.”  He cites studies from the CDC and other international sources that challenge the need to mask children.

Children’s Mercy Hospital infectious disease staff immediately and firmly disagreed with Schmitt’s statements about the Delta variant’s effects on children. In a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Kansas City, the chief of the hospital’s infectious disease division, Dr. Angela Myers said, “We’ve seen a far greater number of children infected than we had previously and we’ve seen a far greater number of children need to be hospitalized and need intensive care.”

Her retort to the Attorney General’s lawsuit: “We’ve got data from hair salons, we’ve got data from our own military, data from airplanes, tons of data from schools. I don;t know how much more data we need to say that masks work. That rock has been looked under…let’s put it back down and let’s move on.”

She added that she is seeing an increase in RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus) out of season as well as other respiratory viruses in hospitalized children.

Schmitt argues that parents and families should be the ones to decide whether children should wear masks to school. Missourinet has learned that both DESE and DHSS were not aware the attorney general planned to sue the district.

Chief Communications Officer Mallory McGowin issued this statement:

DESE was not aware of the Attorney General’s plans to file this lawsuit, so we are reviewing the case now and cannot comment further at this time. Our department, along with local school leaders and local boards of education from Missouri’s 554 local education agencies are currently focused on a safe, successful start to the 2021-22 school year. DESE supports local school leaders in their ongoing efforts to keep their doors open for in-person learning and provide a safe educational environment for students and staff.

Attorney General Schmitt has lawsuits open against four jurisdictions: Kansas City, Jackson County, St. Louis City, and St. Louis County. A judge has temporarily barred St. Louis County from mandating mask-wearing.

Missourinet questioned Schmitt in detail about this new, sweeping lawsuit.


Schmitt’s action Tuesday got the attention of President Biden, who has ordered the Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona “to use all his authority to help those school districts doing the right thing to ensure every one of their students has access to a fundamental right of safe in-person learning,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a press briefing Tuesday afternoon.