Three Columbia families may be involved in the state’s class action lawsuit against Columbia Public Schools.

The hearing begins 9 a.m. Tuesday morning at the Boone County Courthouse and will determine whether the district will be able to continue its enforcement of a mask mandate on district property.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri issued a Motion to Intervene for three parents of students with disabilities who are not enrolled in Columbia Public Schools last Wednesday. On Friday, the ACLU filed to extend the request to three more parents, all of whom are from the district.

The parents are advocating for the continuation of mandated masking on behalf of their children. Although only some of the families will be directly affected by the outcome of this case, each child being represented may be at a higher risk for COVID-19-related complications, including death, if mandated masking is banned statewide. Some of the students are too young to be vaccinated which puts them at additional risk.

As of 7 p.m. Monday, the court did not provide a response to the motion. Anthony Rothert, legal director of ACLU of Missouri, said that because this is a state matter, a written response isn’t required and will likely not be issued until the hearing Tuesday.

“These students have a right to attend school and have their disabilities accommodated. If it’s not met, and it wouldn’t be if they don’t have masks, they would have to sue the school district over it,” Rothert said Monday.

*On Aug. 24, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against the school district for requiring mask-use for all staff, students and visitors. The mandate was extended during the Columbia School Board meeting Sept. 13 through the unanimous approval of the district’s 2021-2022 Coronavirus Plan, formally issued Thursday.

The Columbia parents listed on the document are Mackenzie Everett-Kennedy, Christina Frymire and Katherine Canterbury. Everett-Kennedy is acting on behalf of her third-grade daughter who has Type 1 diabetes. Frymire’s child is a senior with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, and has chronic joint disease. Canterbury’s child also has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, as well as generalized anxiety disorder and ADHD.

The parents from outside the district are also acting on behalf of their at-risk children. One child has cystic fibrosis and suffers from chronic lung infections; another has Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, which impairs the immune system; and the third was born with microcephaly (missing brain matter) and has a seizure disorder, according to the court document.

According to the request document, if the state wins this case, these parents and others will have to decide between putting their students at risk or pulling them from in-person classes.

“If the state is successful in this action the students will be excluded from participation in public education, or, at a minimum, they and their parents will have to choose between risking their physical health and their lives by attending in-person school or their education, mental health and development by finding a remote learning option,” reads the document.

Rothert said it’s unlikely all five parents will speak at the hearing Tuesday and anticipates the court will want to hear from no more than one.

The court will also consider a motion made by the Columbia School District to dismiss the lawsuit altogether. Schmitt filed against the motion to dismiss Monday.

  • Youth reporter, fall 2021. Studying international journalism. Reach me at sofizeman@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5720

  • Elizabeth Brixey is the Columbia Missourian's education editor and an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and brixeye@missouri.edu.

  • Assistant city editor, spring 2021. Studying print and digital news journalism. Reach me at skylarlaird@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5720.

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