The Mask Debate

Recent Mask Mandates Bring Potential Lawsuit to NKC School District


Over the past two years, American lives have been affected by COVID-19. North Kansas City School District’s students have been required to wear masks daily to go to school, work, or just out and about. In January, the Attorney General of Missouri, Eric Schmitt, sent warnings and the possible consequence of a lawsuit to multiple Missouri school districts if schools kept mask mandates in place. NKC is one of the schools who received a warning of this possible lawsuit.

NKC School District Attorney Steve Book said, “The Attorney General has filed a petition against the district, but he has not filed a motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) at this point, although he has done that in cases against four other school districts. Because we have not been the subject of a motion for a TRO, I have not spent much time analyzing those arguments. I believe the district has good factual and legal arguments against the claims in the petition.”

“We will file a response within the time required by law and defend against the claims asserted,” Book said. “It’s possible that the lawsuit would be considered moot if at some point in the future the mask requirement is removed.”

Due to recent changes made by the CDC, masks are now recommended by the district rather than required.

Students at Winnetonka High School weighed in on the mask mandate and Schmitt’s threat to sue the school district.

Sophomore Colleen Cox said, “Why is it that [Schmitt] cares? With the new variants, when masks were down for one week, Covid cases rose significantly within the school. It’s about not being selfish and looking out for our fellow students and in turn ourselves.”

Sophomore David Heinrich disagrees. “[Schmitt] has the right to sue. It’ll be like that week of school when we didn’t have masks. That’s how it should be. Masks don’t prevent Covid, it’s just a sheet of paper. We aren’t even following social distancing procedures anymore. What’s the point of masks?”

“I was near people with Covid at school and other public places and I didn’t catch it as I was wearing my mask, it also made me feel safer and more protected. It might not completely prevent Covid, but it is a safety measure at the least,” Cox added. “When there was no mask mandate at school, those that didn’t have masks on were made fun of, though not necessarily to their face. Also, usually those that didn’t wear masks were in friend groups and those that did wear masks were in their own friend groups.”

“[Schmitt’s] response is an overreaction,” physics teacher Elizabeth Roberts said. “Many professions wear masks with no repercussions.”

Business teacher Ashley Lee views the masks as something that can bring more than just safety to some students.

“In my little town where I live, the students at school have had the option to wear a mask for the last year and a half, so here with the mandate it’s a little, different.“ Lee has also seen positives and negatives for some students. “I can think of ap olicy that we will adhere to the guidance of state and local health officials when it pertains to communicable diseases. Our current mask protocol is not in violation to the Cole County judgement. The Attorney General suing North Kansas City Schools in unfounded and has no legal basis.”

Clemens recognizes that decisions during this time is challenging with varying opinions and beliefs.

“Partnerships with our parents are critical to our success as a school district. You can imagine the large variety of individuals we have heard from, representing more than 21,000 students. Some are very fervent in their protest of masks, warning of their dangers and failure to protect kids. Others demand that we do more to protect their immuno-compromised child and/or a family member living in the home by requiring masks. Following our policy and adhering to local mandates prevents us from making decisions on behalf of this varied group of families we serve.”

The Kansas City mask mandate expired on February 17, 2022.

While this returned the district to “recommended” masking, the debate may not be over if another variant or wave of cases brings increased risk of illness.

“I don’t think the lift on mask mandates has affected our school that much just because a lot of people are aware,” Says Lee Patterson, 10. “While it’s good to see what progress has been made and what [the mask lift] will affect, I don’t think it’s a good idea to risk what can happen while you don’t have them.”