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AG Derek Schmidt: Federal judge permanently blocks Biden mask, vaccine mandate for Head Start programs

Release Date: Sep 21, 2022

TOPEKA – (September 21, 2022) – A federal judge has issued a permanent injunction against the Biden administration’s mandate that all Head Start students wear masks and workers and volunteers also be vaccinated against COVID-19, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.

Judge Terry A. Daughty for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana issued his ruling today in a lawsuit filed December 21, 2021, by Schmidt and 23 attorneys general challenging the Biden mandate. The court had previously issued a temporary injunction in the case, blocking enforcement of the mandate in Kansas and 23 other states involved in the lawsuit.

The mandate, one of a several one-size-fits all responses by the Biden administration during the pandemic, required staff, volunteers and others who come in contact with Head Start students to be vaccinated. It also required everyone at Head Start age 2 and up to wear a mask. Schmidt argued that by issuing the mandate, the Biden administration exceeded its authority granted by Congress.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the rule of law and for health care freedom," Schmidt said. "We stood up and fought the Biden administration's illegal mandates on behalf of Kansas kids, teachers and parents, and today we all won."

Daughty said in his ruling that issue comes down to separation of powers doctrine that “keeps the three branches equal. If one branch attempts to exceed its constitutional powers, it is the Judicial Branch’s duty to stop it.”

“The public interest is served by maintaining the constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals who do not want to take the COVID-19 vaccine. This interest outweighs Agency Defendants’ interests,” the judge wrote. “The public has a liberty interest in not being required to take a vaccine or be fired from their jobs. The public interest must be taken into account before allowing Agency Defendants to mandate vaccines. Although vaccines arguably serve the public interest, the liberty interests of individuals mandated to take the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any interest generated by the mandatory administration of vaccines.”

Schmidt has previously obtained federal court injunctions blocking the OSHA vaccine mandate for private employers and the federal contractor vaccine mandate. Earlier this month, Schmidt joined 21 other attorneys general in support of a group of Navy SEALS who are seeking exemptions from the administration’s vaccine mandate on grounds that it violates their deeply held religious beliefs. The Biden administration has responded by arguing the military should be given extraordinary deference in its decision to direct compliance with the vaccine mandate, even overriding fundamental freedoms.

A copy of the ruling on the Head Start mandate is available at https://bit.ly/3dy7lXu.

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News releases issued prior to 2011 are available through an archive hosted by the Kansas State Library.