MO AG Eric Schmitt sues 9 more school districts, but some question his scientific analysis and motivation

(KCTV5 News)
Updated: Jan. 24, 2022 at 5:00 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Monday afternoon, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed lawsuits against nine more school districts over their mask mandates. These are in addition to the 36 districts he sued last week.

Some had criticized Schmitt’s action after Friday, pointing out that the district his children attend wasn’t among the districts sued. But, that district is among those added today.

“As we’ve made clear from the beginning, the power to make health decisions for their children should be in the hands of parents, not bureaucrats,” Schmitt said in a news release today.

Many believe the lawsuits are politically motivated. Schmitt has announced a run for US Senate later this year.

On Friday, Schmitt tweeted that his analysis of school data shows schools without masks have lower Covid-19 rates that schools with masks. His office did an analysis using DHSS Covid-19 data in Missouri school districts from December 29, 2021-January 11, 2022.

The AGO says the analysis showed that mask mandates are ineffective in schools, and that non-masked districts fared the same or better than masked districts. The tweet went out shortly after the Attorney General sued the 36 Missouri school districts over their mask mandates.

Schmitt directly compared school districts, including Kearney to Kansas City—26 miles apart. The bottom line, according to Schmitt, is that masks don’t stop the spread of Covid-19.

People on Twitter immediately keyed in the days analyzed. School districts were out for winter break at least part of that time.

(KCTV5 News)

Health professionals don’t agree with the Attorney General’s analysis and accuse him of mangling data for political gain.

“I think it’s the Missouri Attorney General again playing politics,” said Dr. Steve Stites with the University of Kansas Health System.

“Do they have the training to critically review studies, to critically analyze data, understand all the caveats associated with that?” asks Dr. Dana Hawkinson with the University of Kansas Health System. “I’m not sure there are many agencies in the United States that are epidemiologists, or physicians, or trained PhDs in those certain statistics and numbers.”

Dr. Amesh Adalja, with John Hopkins, agrees.

“It’s very difficult if you’re not a subject matter expert, to be able to look at raw numbers and look at trends and be able to draw any strong conclusions from them,” said Dr. Adalja.

He says variables like Christmas break matter. And that differences in lunchroom, ventilation systems, after school activities and vaccination rates also influence numbers.

“It’s something where you need training in at least statistical methods to be able to make sure that when you’re making a data comparison and drawing conclusions from it, that those conclusions are actually sound and warranted by what the data actually so show.” Said Dr. Adalja.

Kansas City is one of the districts being sued. Mayor Quinton Lucas weighed in on the science and the lawsuits.

“We’re going to continue to rely on science public health directions and I think that’s the best way to go,” said Mayor Lucas. “Rather than just try to score political points.”

The Missouri Attorney General declined out request for an interview.