2 rules of Tennessee governor’s ban on school mask mandate
Two federal judges in Tennessee have struck down government Bill Lee’s executive order allowing families to opt out of the school mask mandate, ruling in separate cases Friday that local districts must protect children with disabilities. may require a face covering, while legal challenges proceed through the courts. .
It was the third time in the past two weeks that a judge suspended the governor’s order after parents of special education students sued them for violating the order that violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Mr. Lee is one of several Republican governors who have used their executive powers to prevent school districts from enforcing mask policies, playing to conservative voters who consider such rules to be parental rights and personal considered a violation of liberty.
The debate over masks in schools has become highly politicized, as tens of millions of students have returned to class across the country. Texas, Florida, Arizona and Iowa are among states where governors have tried to ban mask requirements in direct opposition to local school leaders who want them.
President Biden’s administration has entered the fray. The federal Department of Education is examining orders issued by governors in seven states, including Tennessee, to determine whether to allow parents to ignore mask mandates for their children students with disabilities until their education. Discrimination by restricting access.
The same legal principle is at the heart of lawsuits in Tennessee. Earlier this month, the Knox County Board of Education voted against requiring masks in its schools, drawing guidance from local and federal health officials. The next day, families with children with disabilities filed a class-action lawsuit, arguing that the school board’s decision did not create a safe, in-person learning environment for children during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee J. Ronnie Greer ruled that schools in Knox County must implement a mask rule to help protect children with health problems while the lawsuit is pending. He stopped the governor from implementing his order until the legal battle was settled.
A similar decision was given by U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw for the Central District of Tennessee, who said on Friday that schools in Williamson County and the Franklin Special School District could enforce the mask mandate, as well as the governor’s order. can stop.
Both school systems implemented strict mask policies through at least January of next year to combat rising infections in their districts, but Mr. Lee’s order, issued on August 16, required school officials to leave masks to students. forced to amend its rules, no questions asked. Once again, parents of special education students filed a lawsuit, arguing that ignoring mask rules to some students violates the rights of special education children.
Last week, a third federal judge, this time in Shelby County, in the western part of the state, indefinitely blocked the governor’s order, saying it was safe for children with health problems during the coronavirus pandemic. There was an obstacle in going to school.
Mr. Lee’s order is due to expire on October 5, and he told reporters he had not yet decided whether to renew it. A spokesman for the governor did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Justin Gilbert, an attorney representing parents who sued in Knox, Williamson and Franklin counties, said three federal judges “protected children from an executive order built on wage-issue politics, not science.” “
Jack Baig contributed to the research. Erica Green contributed reporting.
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