KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has sent cease and desist letters to dozens of school districts across the state ordering them to repeal any masking or vaccination requirements.
The list of districts includes several from across Kansas City, including Kansas City Public Schools, North Kansas City Schools, Lee’s Summit R-7, Platte County R-3, Odessa R-7, Liberty School District, Kearney R-1, Smithville R-2, Harrisonville R-9, Lone Jack School District and Grain Valley R-5.
Late Thursday, a spokesperson with the Lee's Summit School District confirmed they had received the letter from Schmitt and said the district "disagreed with its claims."
"The district will be responding through its legal counsel and is prepared to defend in court its duty under Missouri law to protect the health and safety of its students and staff."
KSHB 41 News obtained a letter dated Dec. 9 to the Kearney School District from Schmitt. In the letter, Schmitt said his office had received a complaint from a parent in the district that the district was allegedly violating a Missouri judge’s ruling regarding mandates.
Legal experts believe while the attorney general can send such a letter to public health authorities, sending it to school leaders may be overreaching.
"The attorney general's aggressive handling of these matters probably doesn't make it any easier for these people to do their job," said Allen Rostron, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
On Wednesday, Schmitt posted on the AG’s website and on social media a request for parents across the state to report schools and districts that were in alleged violation of the judge’s ruling — placing school administrators in a tough spot.
"So, you’re trying to do the best you can from a safety standpoint, but you want to obey the law and you want to respect people's rights and give them as much discretion to make their decisions as possible, so you're in a really difficult decision," Rostron said.
In the letter, Schmitt pledges to use the “full resources” of his office to ensure compliance. Schmitt also requested several documents from district officials regarding their discussion of mask and vaccine mandates.
North Kansas City Schools said they're not commenting on the letter at this time, but some parents and students in the district, like Luna Salas Montero, don't mind the way things are currently.
By now, the seventh-grader and her family have adjusted to the COVID-19 protocols at Northgate Middle School. But the same can't be said for some of her classmates.
"They say they're sick of the masks, and most of them don't even wear their mask properly, so they're sick of it," Salas Montero said.
With the omicron variant spreading in the community, Salas Montero isn't ready to ditch the mask.
"I think just wait for a little bit, because you never know what's going to come back," she said.
A Kearney spokesperson said district officials and the board of education “will take the time” to review the letter, consider its options and “respond accordingly.”
Regardless of how everything shakes out, students are still required to wear a mask on school buses due to a federal mandate that requires them to do so.