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Missouri attorney general answers CPS request to dismiss school mask lawsuit

Columbia Public Schools Administration Building
KMIZ
Columbia Public Schools Administration Building

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Missouri's attorney general filed a motion Monday against Columbia Public Schools' request to dismiss a state lawsuit that seeks to end the district's mask mandate.

The state, under the direction of Attorney General Eric Schmitt, sued last month to end a mandate that all students and staff wear masks indoors at CPS. Schmitt has also asked a judge to certify the lawsuit as class action, which would add other Missouri schools with mask mandates as defendants.

About 19,000 students are covered by the CPS mask mandate.

Lawyers for CPS filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit last week. The motion says the law gives schools the right to implement such regulations and that the attorney general lacks a solid claim or standing in the case.

Schmitt in his motion argues that he has the power to sue over the mandate because he is tasked with ensuring political subdivisions follow state law. Schmitt wrote that there is disagreement about the effectiveness of masks, despite the district's arguments to the contrary. The attorney general also argues that the state health department, not local school districts, has the power to implement health orders.

A judge has not ruled on the motions.

Schmitt, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, has also sued cities and counties with coronavirus health orders.

CPS has promised to aggressively defend its mask mandate, which it says is in place to protect students and staff. CPS students learned virtually for large chunks of last school year because of the wide spread of the coronavirus in Boone County. The district put the mandate in place in summer school and then for the beginning of fall classes as the delta variant led to another surge in cases.

The school board recently voted to extend the mandate.

A hearing in the CPS lawsuit is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Boone County Courthouse.

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Matthew Sanders

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

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