Judge denies attorney general's push to expand mask lawsuit

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Boone County judge on Tuesday rejected Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt's effort to expand his litigation against mask mandates in public schools to districts across the state.

Schmitt initially sued the Columbia Public Schools after it required students and staff to wear masks while indoors to reduce the spread of COVID-19. He had sought class certification to expand the lawsuit to other districts.

Circuit Judge J. Hasbrouck Jacobs rejected that motion and a request for a preliminary injunction sought by Schmitt, a Republican running for U.S. Senate.

The order means that for now, Schmitt will have to sue districts individually to stop mask mandates, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The Columbia district argued that state law gives districts the right to impose such regulations based on local preferences. 

Jacobs rejected a motion from the Columbia Public Schools to dismiss Schmitt's lawsuit. 

After the ruling, the attorney general's office said in a statement that he would continue litigation against mask requirements, although further litigation would be evaluated after the Columbia case is settled, said Chris Nuelle, spokesman for the attorney general's office.