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Judge dismisses attorney general’s mask lawsuit against Columbia Public Schools

Columbia Public Schools buses
KMIZ
Columbia Public Schools buses

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

A Boone County judge dismissed the Missouri attorney general's lawsuit against Columbia Public Schools over mask mandates Thursday, saying there was no "live controversy" at hand.

"The result desired by (the attorney general's office) has been achieved as Defendant has not required masks in CPS for over four months and there is no reasonable expectation that Defendant will reimplement its mask mandate," Judge Josh Devine wrote in his judgment, posted online Thursday.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, first sued CPS and dozens of other districts last year over their requirements that students and workers wear masks as coronavirus cases surged. CPS was one of just a few districts that Schmitt was still pursuing legal action against.

Attorney General Schmitt has been steadfast in his fight against the forced masking of children in school all day, which is ineffective and causes lasting, negative impacts on our children. Because of our lawsuit, Columbia Public Schools has already dropped their mask mandate, a win for parents and students in Columbia Public Schools. Further, almost all of the schools that the Attorney General’s Office sued dropped their mask mandates. Make no mistake, the Attorney General’s Office will be watching summer school masking policies and school policies when students return in the fall to ensure that schools cannot yet again attempt to force the masking of children. We were proud to fight alongside parents in this lawsuit, and will stand ready, willing, and able to fight alongside parents again.

Chris Nuelle, press secretary for the Missouri Attorney General's Office

CPS has been highly critical of the lawsuit, saying it wasted taxpayer money by suing over school leaders' efforts to keep students and staff safe.

COVID-19 case levels have fallen dramatically in the school district but might be on the rise. The district's summer school program for gifted middle-schoolers is taking two days off because of a high number of cases, according to a notice sent to parents Thursday.

Columbia Public Schools is pleased with the decision of the Court to grant our Motion and dismiss the Attorney General’s litigation. There was no reason for this case to move forward, with CPS singled out as the only public school district in the entire state of Missouri being sued by the Attorney General for something the District wasn’t doing. The Court rightfully recognized that allowing the lawsuit to continue would be a waste of time, energy, resources, and tax dollars.

With this unnecessary distraction concluded, our dedicated staff will remain focused on providing a safe and productive learning environment for our scholars, as we prepare for another successful school year to start in August.

Michelle Baumstark, spokesperson for Columbia Public Schools

The attorney general's office and lawyers for CPS presented their arguments before the judge last month. Schmitt's office had argued that CPS could again require masks. However, Devine said that was speculation and not something the court could consider. Devine dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning it could be brought back to court at a later time.

The school district hopes insurance will cover the cost of the lawsuit, a spokesperson said last month.

Schmitt initially sued Jefferson City Schools over masks but later dropped that lawsuit. However, last week he subpoenaed the district for a survey given to students.

Check back for updates to this developing story.

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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