Lawsuit between Missouri Attorney General and Rockwood continues


Bailey Wagener

Editorial cartoon depicts Eric Schmidt ‘beating the mask mandate’.

On August 24th, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit in Boone County Circuit Court over requiring masks in schools. Although it was initially filed against the Columbia School District, it has recently been expanded to target all districts in Missouri with mask mandates, including Rockwood.  Rockwood’s official policy is that masks are required regardless of vaccination status, a decision that has become increasingly debated as the school year started.

Schmidt argues that the enforcement of mask mandates is inconsistent, unlawful to schoolchildren, and a violation of Missouri law

The law states that orders that put restrictions on schools during and related to an emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, should not remain in effect for longer than 30 days. He argues that the time has already passed to keep restrictions like mask mandates in school, and thus the enforcement of mask mandates is unlawful. 

Schmidt also argues that mask mandates are unnecessary due to the low transmission and infection rates of COVID-19 in children. 

“The science shows that children are at a significantly lower risk of contracting a serious illness due to COVID-19 and that they do not generally spread the virus, even in school settings,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit additionally argues that masks hinder childhood development and interfere with emotion recognition and communication skills.

“The science shows that mask use by young children is detrimental to their communication skills at a critical stage of their development,” the lawsuit states.

Rockwood School District Superintendent Dr. Tim Ricker refuted the arguments presented in the lawsuit and justified his decision to enforce mask mandates.

“You’ll see in the lawsuit where it says that transmission rates are low for children and the death rate is low,” Ricker said. “Well, when people ask me how many kids have to be sick, how many kids have to die before it’s important, to me it’s every one of them.”

Dr. Ricker believes that following safety protocols and increasing the vaccination rates within the Rockwood School District, will ensure a mask-free future for Rockwood.

“That (the current masking protocols) doesn’t mean masks will go on forever, I believe that if the proper mitigation takes place, and the infections go down and the quarantines go down, then we can lessen our mitigation strategies too, with the idea that we might have to pivot if another variant spikes,” Ricker said. 

A concern for public safety overall drives Dr. Ricker’s decisions regarding the mask mandate. He believes that these decisions will create a safer environment  for students.

“I don’t believe that I want to base my decisions on whether or not I’m going to be elected. I’m here for a year, that’s it. I have nothing to gain, I’m not staying here forever. I want to do what’s right. We didn’t do it as a political stunt, we didn’t do it to gain favor, we did it to make sure our kids and employees were safe,” Ricker said.

The controversy about mask mandates is also a big topic of discussion among Eureka High School students. Nolan Ortinau, 11, believes mask mandates are justified in the name of public safety at least currently, despite any discomfort they cause. 

“They’re a little uncomfortable. But I think that’s a little silly to be complaining about. I’d rather be uncomfortable than dead,” Ortinau said.

Even with the discomfort, students recognize the importance of the mask mandate and how it inevitably protects Rockwood Schools from COVID-19. 

“I mean obviously I don’t like wearing masks, I want to be out of the mask as soon as possible, but it’s very important we take a holistic approach to looking at transmission rates, looking at the advice we’re getting from medical professionals, and then evaluating our circumstances, and as of right now I do believe that masks are the best move,” Ortinau said. 

 However, the idea of masking is not shared by all Eureka students. Jack Laumann, 12, agrees with Schmitt’s lawsuit and believes mask mandates should never have been enforced in Rockwood.

“I do not agree with the mask mandate. I believe schools should make masks optional-especially if someone (like myself) is vaccinated,” Laumann said. 

Laumann further elaborates on his worries that mask mandates create mental health problems in students. In his opinion, mask mandates have a negative impact on mental health in teens and directly correlate to depression rates.

With the discovery of new variants, it’s likely the debate over mask mandates will continue.