3 federal judges block Gov. Lee’s mask ‘opt-out’ order

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – In a major blow to Governor Bill Lee’s agenda, three federal judges in three parts of the state have blocked his mask opt-out order.

Memphis and Shelby County Schools in West Tennessee, Williamson County Schools in Middle Tennessee, and Knox County Schools in East Tennessee are all under masks requirements.

Governor Lee says he will not comment on his mask opt-out order being blocked by federal judges.

Executive Order 84, signed by Governor Lee in August, allows parents to opt their child out of masks requirements.

“Under the ADA, schools districts are required to comply with of course,” said Zack Buck, Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law. “They have to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities.”

Judges ruled allowing parents to opt their children out of mask mandates in school goes against the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“If the school district doesn’t comply with a federal district order, then that would be a contempt of court issue,” Buck said.

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In Williamson County, a federal judge ruled, without masking and rising COVID-19 cases and spread, students, “have likewise been denied access to a safe, in-person education experience.”

Some parents disagree saying, “parents should make the decision whether or not they want to mask or not.”

However, some including East Tennessee Representative Gloria Johnson, say the rulings are the right step forward.

“We know that the number of kids and teenagers that have died from Covid has doubled since august since school started,” said Johnson, a former high school teacher.

Knox County schools have been under threat since a judge ruled masks should be required and took Monday off. One man said the community should block entrances to schools and buses.

“Don’t take these adult political battles of yours to the schoolhouse door,” Johnson said.

Adding, ultimately the rulings prove the governor’s inaction has caused more harm than good.

“The reality is the courts had to step in because they’re not doing their jobs, they’re not making sure that people’s right to live and attend school, attend their workplace, because these folks are not making it safe,” she said.

Each order only applies to the counties the lawsuit was filed in.

The governor’s opt-out order is in effect through October 5.

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