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Columbia Public Schools hopes insurance will help cover costs of lawsuit over face masks

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Columbia Public Schools hopes its insurance provider will help cover the costs of a pair of lawsuits filed by the Missouri Attorney General's Office.

The school district and AG's office were back at the Boone County Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon for a motion hearing. A judge heard two requests filed by CPS to dismiss the lawsuit.

The judge asked for more information and time to review the arguments before issuing a ruling on the motions to dismiss the case. A ruling by the judge could take several weeks.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed the lawsuit against CPS in January after the school district rolled out a temporary face mask requirement. CPS ended the temporary mandate in February.

"We believe this case should be dismissed, just as it has been for 42 other school districts across the state. The issues before the court are moot because the district does not have a mask requirement," said CPS Chief Communications Officer Michelle Baumstark. "Continuing this case is a waste of time, energy, resources, and public dollars for all sides."

The attorney general's office declined to comment on Tuesday until the judge makes a ruling on the motions.

At the hearing on Tuesday afternoon, a lawyer for Schmitt's office argued it believes the school district could still reimplement a face mask policy. The lawyer also argued CPS hasn't addressed the three parents named in the lawsuit.

Other similar lawsuits filed by Schmitt's office against the University City School District and Lee's Summit R-7 School District are still pending.

Last year, the attorney general's office dropped a different lawsuit against Columbia Public Schools over the use of face masks. The Columbia Board of Education voted to end the mandate days after the lawsuit was filed.

Through August 2021, the school district had spent $6,246 defending itself against the lawsuits. The school district's insurance policy includes a $25,000 deductible.

Baumstark said the insurance policy will cover a maximum on claims of $100,000. Right now, the school district has filed two claims with its insurance provider. The insurance company will decide whether or not to merge the school district's claims into one.

Lawyers for Columbia Public Schools and the Missouri Attorney General's Office are expected back in court on Sept. 9 at 1 p.m.

The case is currently scheduled to head to trial in October.

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Zachary Farwell

Zachary Farwell is the assignment editor and former senior producer at ABC 17 News.

Joushua Blount

Joushua Blount hails from Cleveland, Ohio and has a bachelor’s degree in media communications from the University of Toledo. He also has a master’s degree from the University Of Alabama. Roll Tide!

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