Blue Springs district sues over football attendance limit

By Mike Genet

The Blue Springs School District has sued the Jackson County Health Department over its county’s attendance limitations amid the pandemic, saying the 100-person limit for public outdoor gatherings is “arbitrary” and “unreasonable.” 

In the suit, filed Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court, the district asked a judge to grant a temporary restraining order, given that Blue Springs High School and Blue Springs South High School both have home football games Friday. The district also asks a judge to bar the Health Department from imposing sanctions and to rule on the legality of the department’s attendance guideline.

Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. called the lawsuit “troubling for many reasons,” noting that national and world health organizations have all recommended limiting crowd sizes because of high community spread of COVID-19.

“Yet, despite the apparent universal agreement that large public gatherings pose a substantial risk to the health and safety of our community, the Blue Springs School District has decided to sue the county in the hopes a court will allow them to have more spectators at their football games,” White said in a statement.

District spokesperson Katie Woolf said all members of the Board of Education received notice about the suit and approved the district moving forward with it.

In late August, the school district announced an attendance policy under which each football player, cheerleader and dance team member participating in the game would receive four tickets for home games, and each visiting team participant would receive two tickets.  

With that policy, a few hundred fans attended the Blue Springs game Aug. 28 against Liberty, “substantially lower” than the stadium’s 5,000-person capacity, the district said in the suit.

The day before the game, the Health Department had emailed Blue Springs Superintendent Paul Kinder to say the ticket policy violated the gathering limits. 

On Sept. 1, the department sent a notice of noncompliance to the district and threatened sanctions that included revoking the district’s concession stand health permits, requiring athletes to quarantine for two weeks and possibly banning spectators from district athletic events for the remainder of the season.

In a Zoom conference Sept. 3, the Kinder and district officials said they had complied with regulations by limiting capacity to 25 percent, requiring facemasks for all fans, requiring social distance between non-household guests and providing hand sanitizer. County officials maintained their 100-person limit.

“While we understand and appreciate that reasonable minds can disagree about what the right number should be,” White said in his statement, “we are disappointed that Blue Springs chose to litigate this issue.”

“Unfortunately, the decision by Blue Springs will require us to divert valuable time, energy, and resources to this lawsuit instead of focusing on making our community safer and stronger.”