Federal judge dismisses mask mandate lawsuit against KC area school districts, cities

A federal judge has dismissed an anti-mask lawsuit brought by a nonprofit called the Northland Parent Association against several Kansas City area municipalities and school districts that contended officials violated the law by enacting restrictions meant to curb COVID-19.

The Northland Parent Association — which claims to be made up of hundreds of families and other taxpayers in Clay and Platte counties — filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District of Western Missouri in August. In a ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. wrote that the organization had failed to demonstrate “that its claimed injuries are concrete and particularized and has only shown that its injuries are conjectural and hypothetical.”

The lawsuit took aim at mandates as applied to children that were approved by elected officials in Kansas City and North Kansas City and the school districts of Excelsior Springs, Kearney, Liberty, North Kansas City, Smithville, Park Hill and Platte County. It alleged that the “the mask mandates are unconstitutional, unlawful, unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious, and involve an abuse of discretion” while questioning the efficacy of masks, as well as the risk of the virus to children.

At issue in a motion to dismiss the case was the legal standing on which the group filed its lawsuit. The judge agreed with the defense’s argument that the organization, which did not identify its aggrieved members or children in court papers, lacked the ability to make its claims in court and did not state a claim for which relief could be granted.

Kevin Corlew, founder of the organization and a former Republican state representative, is the lawyer who handled the case for the Northland Parent Association. He said his clients are disappointed with the judge’s decision, saying many have children with health concerns and disabilities who “will continue to suffer under overreaching restrictions that have been unlawfully imposed.”

“The Northland Parent Association is considering its legal options to continue to advocate for their children,” Corlew said in an email Monday night.

School districts and elected officials meanwhile have defended the decision to enact mandates, which were done in the fall as COVID-19 cases were surging around the country. The decisions were made prior to federal approval of vaccines for children ages 5 through 12, and came with the backing of health experts who saw the schools as a potential breeding ground for COVID-19.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, one of the defendants in the suit, celebrated the outcome on Twitter.

“I thank the Kansas City Attorney’s Office for their successful defense of the mask rules to help fight the spread of COVID in schools among our young people,” Lucas said in his tweet. “Their safety is paramount, particularly as we face new variants.”

The Star’s Sarah Ritter contributed to this report.

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