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Tennessee district blocks governor's anti-mask mandate order

Jami Ganz, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

One Tennessee school district is standing resolute against the governor’s efforts to let parents opt their kids out of school mask mandates.

Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order, which was extended through Nov. 5, will continue to be blocked in Williamson County’s two public school systems, thanks to a ruling from U.S. District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, The Tennessean reported.

“The record before the Court establishes that temporary universal mask mandates adopted by the Williamson County and Franklin school systems have been, and likely would continue to be, effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19,” wrote Crenshaw in the accompanying opinion, according to the paper.

The governor’s controversial order led to lawsuits for the districts from the families of children with disabilities, one in Williams County Schools and one in Franklin Special District, according to the outlet.

“Disabled students are at a significantly higher risk for severe infection and are exposed at a higher rate” in the wake of the executive order, Crenshaw wrote in his opinion, dubbing the order “an irreparable harm that justifies continued injunctive relief,” the paper reports.

Because of this, Crenshaw said, the two families — who are suing under disabilities laws, including the Americans With Disabilities Act — are entitled to see the order blocked, according to the outlet.

 

“This is a masterpiece decision that leaves no doubt that masking is necessary to protect medically fragile children and the greater school community,” said Justin S. Gilbert, who is representing the families, according to The Tennessean.

Lee, though supportive of sending kids to school with masks amid the pandemic, is adamant that families choose for themselves, according to the outlet.

Friday’s ruling, which will remain in effect until a final decision is made, follows Crenshaw’s earlier temporary order to block Lee’s order through at least Oct. 27, the paper reports.

Because of the order, which has been temporarily blocked in both Memphis and Knoxville — decisions appealed by the state attorney, Tennessee’s education department is under federal investigation, according to the paper.

The federal government has said the order, for all intents and purposes, effectively bans mask mandates as it takes away schools’ abilities to make them universal, the outlet reports.

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