Missouri Attorney General Warns Rockwood School District to Stop Unconstitutional and Illegal Mask Orders
The courts have spoken, but school districts refuse to comply
Rockwood School District intends to defy a recent court ruling by continuing to enforce its unpopular and dangerous mask mandate despite a warning from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent to all Missouri public school district earlier today.
In response to an inquiry from Hennessy’s View on whether Rockwood would obey the court order, district spokeswoman Mary Lapak said, “there will be no change to our mitigation strategies.” We provided Ms. Lapak a copy of this letter from AG Schmitt:
In the letter, AG Schmitt warns school districts to stop their unconstitutional and illegal mask mandates immediate:
Under this judgment, all mask mandates, quarantine order, and other public health orders that are based on any of the invalidated regulations or issued outside the protections of the Missouri Administrative Procedure Act are null and void. We have advised local public health authorities today to stop enforcing and publicizing any such orders immediately. You also should stop relying on, enforcing, or publicizing any such orders immediately.
As of 3:30 p.m., Rockwood’s website is still pushing a mask mandate in violation of the court order and Missouri law. This despite the AG’s explicit warning:
Failure to follow the court’s judgment may result in enforcement action against you to remove orders the court has determined are unconstitutional and illegal. We encourage you to take immediate action to remove all unconstitutional and illegal orders.
“Unconstitutional and illegal.” Rockwood’s justification for defying the order is that their attorneys insist the district has the authority to make rules for health and safety. That reasoning directly contradicts what the court wrote, but Rockwood doesn’t seem to care.
The example Rockwood sets for students is: ignore the law, ignore judgments, do whatever you want. And people wonder why crime is going through the roof.
Parkway School District Keeping Mandates
Meanwhile, neighboring Parkway School District has acknowledged receipt of the Attorney General’s letter, they, too, will keep their illegal mask, quarantine, and contact tracing policies until further notice. Here’s the Parkway superintendent’s letter to staff:
A society cannot long stand when its schools are run by lawless renegades. It’s time for taxpayers and parents to rein in these arrogant public servants.
This ruling applies to public health departments’ overreach in issuing discretionary orders or rules without a governing statute giving them the authority to do so. This is administrative law 101, so the decision is hardly surprising.
Notably, what Judge Green doesn’t speak to in his decision (and what you seem to be misunderstanding) is whether school boards have the authority to set rules and regulations for the schools in their district boundaries, including mask mandates. On this question once again, there is no debate. Missouri law grants wide authority to school boards to establish policies and guidelines to ensure the health and safety of students, staff and families. School boards can enforce quarantines to limit the spread of communicable diseases (RSMO 167.191), they can enforce dress codes (RSMO 167.029), and to work with DHS in enforcing vaccine mandates to attend school (RSMO 161.181), among other things. The statutory authority for school boards to enact mask mandates is clear, and Judge Green’s ruling didn’t change this.
This is what The School District of Clayton told me: “In the interest of clarity, our legal counsel advised us that a trial court's order does not become final until 30 days after it's issued, and then the parties to the case have 10 days in which to appeal. Therefore, the order the AG is referencing does not become final until at least December 23rd. (30 days after it was issued).
We plan to continue enforcing our masking guidelines at least until December 23rd. If the District decides to make any changes, will be sure to send a communication to the community.”