A federal judge issued an order on Friday evening that blocks Governor Bill Lee’s (R) executive order allowing parents the option to opt their children out of mask requirements in school. The order, by U.S. District Court Judge Sheryl H. Lipman, applies only to Shelby County.
In the 18-page order, the plaintiffs allege that Lee’s executive order “Prohibits enforcement of the Shelby County Health Department’s mask mandate in schools in the County and thus denies children with disabilities their rights under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to access reasonable protection from the threat of exposure to COVID-19, only immediate restraint of Governor Lee’s Executive Order will eliminate this violation of their rights.”
The ruling also says:
“1. Defendant Governor Lee is enjoined from enforcing Executive Order No.84 in Shelby County or allowing parents to opt out of Defendant Shelby County’s mask mandate, as currently specified under Shelby County Health Order No. 25.”
“2. Defendant Shelby County is ordered to enforce its Health Orders with exception for Governor Lee’s Executive Order No. 84.”
“3. This Temporary Restraining Order shall remain in effect until 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 17, 2021, unless dissolved sooner or extended by order of this Court.”
According to The Commercial Appeal, Emily Tremel, who is a mother of one of the plaintiffs, testified that her 11-year-old daughter, who is not eligible for the vaccine, recently tested positive for COVID-19 after an unmasked student tested positive for the virus.
Parent Brittany Schwaigert also testified that her son, Greyson who goes to school in Collierville, requires specialized education services and is immunocompromised, The Appeal reported. Due to Lee’s executive order, Schwaigert said her son is unable to interact with his peers who don’t have a disability.
“I’m putting my child into a high risk situation,” said Schwaigert. “That’s unacceptable to me as a parent.”
In response, Judge Lipman ruled the plaintiffs have identified ways they have been excluded from participating in school programs and socializing with their peers. Judge Lipman ruled the plaintiffs proved their exclusion from school activities is due to “their extreme medical vulnerabilities-in other words, due to their disabilities.”
Lee has maintained his position on masking in schools.
In a press conference held on Thursday, Lee stated: “The law allows school districts to impose a mask requirement in their district but the law also allows for a parent to have the ability to opt-out of that mask requirement. That still exists.”
Another hearing on the case is set for September 9th.
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Olivia Adams is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Olivia on Twitter.