Monett school leaders defend decision to require masks in light of AG lawsuit against masking at schools

Updated: Aug. 30, 2021 at 4:48 AM CDT
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MONETT, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a class-action lawsuit last week against school districts requiring a mask mandate for children and teachers.

“We filed this suit because we fundamentally don’t believe in forced masking, rather that parents and families should have the power to make decisions on masks, based on science and facts,” said Schmitt.

But some school leaders, including those for the Monett School District, say their decision to require masks in class is based on just that, science and facts.

“We did a lot of looking into data and research and looking into other districts, trying to figure out what was best for our students,” said Monett Superintendent Dr. Mark Drake. “We took community input. We had a stakeholder meeting. We did a community survey to try to figure out what was best. So at that point, we decided that it’d be good to require masks for two weeks. That way, we wouldn’t have to quarantine a lot of students, and we could keep them in school.”

After two weeks, school district leaders will consult with the Barry and Lawrence County Health Departments to decide if the mask mandate should be extended or lifted. Ultimately, the decision is based on what will keep students and staff safe and present in seated classes.

“As with any community, we have people on both sides of the issues,” said Dr. Drake. “People that think we shouldn’t be masking and people that think we should. We hear from both sides daily. What we’re trying to focus on is keeping the school running safely, educating students, making sure that we’re listening to our stakeholders and trying to make decisions that that are good for all.”

Dr. Drake says that while the district will comply with any ruling a judge makes. The decision to require masks in Monett was not one made lightly.

“This was a decision or a topic that has kept board members up long hours, myself up long hours, others up long hours. This is not a decision, that is an easy decision,” said Dr. Drake.

Springfield Public Schools also issued the following statement following the lawsuit:

“The unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Missouri, where vaccination rates remain alarmingly low, and children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. In our case, SPS is working in consultation with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department to ensure our protocols align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Our decisions are supported by local data reflecting the impact of COVID-19 here in Springfield.”

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt also recently filed suit against St. Louis County and City, Kansas City, and Jackson County for imposing a mask mandate. A St. Louis County judge issued a preliminary injunction, halting the imposition of the mask mandate in St. Louis County.

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