The Governor of Tennessee, William Byron Lee’s mandate allowing families to opt-out of the school mask order has been blocked by a third federal judge.
In the latest progress in the ongoing legal battle related to Byron Lee’s mandate which was launched by parents as well as advocates because of the alarming rise in Covid 19 cases in schools in Tennessee, a third federal judge has decided to block Lee’s order which allows families to back out of the school mask mandate. This decision was handed down by U.S District judge Waverly Crenshaw late on Friday, 25th September 2021.
Mask Opt-Out Law In Schools Blocked By A Third Federal Judge
Ever since the mandate was passed by Bill Lee in August last year under the pressure of a few Republican lawmakers who demanded that Lee hold a special session, so that the ‘Grand Old Party’ (GOP) controlling General Assembly could block the mask mandates and other Corona virus-related safety precautions in schools in Tennessee, pediatric hospitalizations have spiked to record highs as many school kids have been attending classes without wearing masks.
While Waverly Crenshaw’s decision applies exclusively to Williamson County, an affluent area towards the south of Nashville, another judge had also blocked Bill Lee’s mandate in Knox County earlier that day, and a week prior to that, another judge had blocked Lee’s order for good, owing to the increasing concern of families that the Governor’s order put the health of the students at risk.
Besides, all three legal cases asserted that the Governor’s executive order breached The Americans with Disabilities Act, which does not sanction disallowing students with disabilities from attending public educational activities and programs. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children with some specific disabilities are more susceptible to critical illnesses or death if they are infected with Covid 19.
In his detailed eighteen-page lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw has claimed that as per the records presented before the court, owing to the alarming spike in Covid 19 cases in the Williamson County region as well as at the plaintiffs’ schools coupled with a significant number of students choosing to opt-out of school, Plaintiff’s residents are being denied access to a protected and personal education facility because of Lee’s school mask mandate.
Waverly Crenshaw also added in his statement that Governor Bill Lee has failed to offer any declarations, affidavits, or any other factual foundation that reinforces his claim that universal mask ruling would need a significant amount of resources.
On the other hand, Governor of Tennessee, William Byron Lee told news reporters on Friday that while he couldn’t disclose the details of the specific lawsuits, there had been a significant number of litigations opposing the mask mandates.
Justifying his decision further, Governor Bill Lee told news reporters that opinions on both sides were pretty strong and therefore the decision to permit districts to provide a condition, but at the same time also allow parents an option to opt-out was the aptest way forward in this case.
Judge Waverly Crenshaw’s mandate is effective until 5th October, the same day that Lee’s order expires. The Governor hasn’t confirmed yet if he plans to extend the order.
According to Public health agencies, wearing a mask indoors is an important way to prevent the spread of infection and it does not pose a health risk for children. It is therefore recommended for schools as children below 12 years of age are still not authorized for vaccination.
Since the spike in Covid 19 cases in minors has coincided with the beginning of the current school year, it makes it difficult for schools in the Tennessee district to provide classroom education because of which schools have been forced to switch to the virtual mode of learning.
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