SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled last month that local health departments cannot issue public health orders such as mask mandates, and that all current public health orders in Missouri should be lifted.
However, Springfield Public Schools (SPS) is trying to argue that Green’s ruling doesn’t apply to them.
According to SPS Chief Communications Director Stephen Hall, SPS’s legal council has guided them to be non-compliant. Hall told The Heartlander that there are Missouri statutes that provide authority to school districts to respond in a way they feel appropriate to prevent disease within the environment of a school setting.
After controversial SPS Superintendent Grenita Lathan received a cease and desist letter from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt to stop mandating masks within the school, Lathan has decided to ignore the attorney general’s direction.
“The letter in question that came from the Attorney General references a case in a circuit court out of Cole County that does not mention public education,” said Hall. “It was a court case that involved litigation with a state agency and so there is a great deal of disagreement that the case that was cited in that note applies to public education anyway.”
As SPS received pushback for their confusing interpretation of Green’s ruling and Schmitt’s cease and desist letter, concerned parents scheduled a walk-out at Pershing Middle School on Friday to take a stand against the school district’s noncompliance.
Many parents had reportedly been threatened with arrest if they stepped on school property, but the situation remained peaceful as protestors stood on the sidewalk with signs of demand while their children walked outside to them.
Jim Gordon, an SPS grandfather who has six children within SPS schools said he just wants things to get back to normal.
“I want them to get back to being a school,” Gordon said. “I don’t want the school system to become political. It bothers me that [students] get used as pawns in a political scheme. We need some common sense and sanity in the educational department and that’s the reason I’m here.”
Concerned parent Joshua Arcidino has a 6th grader at Pershing and another child at Sequiota Elementary in Springfield.
“If a judge makes a ruling on something and people don’t decide to follow it, then you’re basically in a place without law,” Arcidino said. “You’ve got to follow the law. You’re teaching a bunch of kids this. You’re teaching them that they can do whatever they want and be above the law.”
Another concerned Pershing parent Emily Smith has been in contact with Schmitt’s office and said that he encouraged their walk-out and told Smith that SPS is actively violating the law.
“He encouraged us and said that they do not have a 30-day window to abide by this judgment that Judge Green passed on November 22nd,” Smith said. “They are actively breaking the law and continuing to do it. We’re here advocating for the law to be followed and that SPS will acknowledge that law and give us back our rights as individuals.”
According to SPS parent Brian Smith, Springfield’s new superintendent has also faced several issues in other states during her career. She reportedly spent three years as the interim superintendent at the Houston School District in Texas and although she was the only applicant for the official position at the time, they refused to hire her because she is “racist, aggressive in her policies, she has an agenda and doesn’t listen,” according to Smith.
Smith said she has also been fired from a school district in Illinois for the same reasons.
“Grenita started suspending students on the 7th because they weren’t wearing their masks,” Smith said. “Later on the 7th, the Attorney General sent a personal letter to Grenita ordering her to cease and desist immediately. The next day on the 8th of December when students showed up at some of the schools without masks on, she suspended them for the rest of the year. They can not return to school until January of next year. She has doubled and tripled down and is refusing to comply.”
Smith says on Dec. 8, his daughter and many other students showed up without masks and were heavily punished by being locked outside of their classroom and humiliated in front of their peers.
“They are trying to be dictators and telling the kids that they don’t have any rights,” Smith said.
As SPS continues to ignore Judge Green’s ruling and Schmitt’s repeated direction to lift all mask mandates, the school district should expect additional criticism from parents, government officials and Missourians until they comply.