Parents File Ethics Complaints Against Knox County Board of Education Members in Battle Against End to School Mask Mandate


A Knox County Schools (KCS) parent group fighting the end of school mask mandates has filed an ethics complaint against three members of the school board, alleging they violated one of the board’s own policies and also appeared at a Knox County Commission meeting without giving adequate public notice.

Parent Amanda Collins, who chairs Knox County Schools Parent Advocates for School Safety (KCS PASS), said in a press statement KCS board members Betsy Henderson, Susan Horn, and Kristi Kristy violated the board’s policy when they submitted a proposal to the Knox County Commission to hire private attorneys to help in the board’s fight against a lawsuit over masks in schools.

“By privately arranging their actions related to the commission meeting and then also only selectively sharing their intent to appear at commission,” Collins said, according to Knox News, “it looks like Henderson, Horn, and Kristy might have violated Sunshine Laws, especially the need for adequate public notice – not just adequate notice to those who support us.”

KCS PASS also accused the three board members of secretly scheming to plan their appearance at the commission meeting which, the group alleges, is a violation of the Tennessee Open Meetings Law.

According to the Knox News report, Deborah Fisher, executive director for the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, commented she did not see “an obvious violation of the open meetings law.”

“I actually think it is OK for individual board members to speak their mind to a county commission,” Fisher said, adding:

Did they “deliberate” behind the scenes on some strategy to go before the county commission and ask for authority? Maybe, but they wouldn’t have been deliberating on a school board decision.

The parents who filed the lawsuit to force the school mask mandate now say they want independent monitors appointed to enforce the mandate.

KCS PASS states on its website it “recognizes all of the advocacy needs in Knox County, and we are starting with holding KCS accountable for 2021-22 covid-19 mitigation measures that follow CDC recommendations.”

In August, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed an executive order that allowed parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates that might be enacted by a district or health board.

Lee maintained that while “local decision-making is important, individual decision-making by a parent on issues regarding the health and well-being of their child is the most important.”

The Knox County board subsequently voted, 5-4, against a mask mandate.

As WATE reported, parents of three KCS students identified as disabled subsequently filed a federal lawsuit against Lee and Knox County, claiming that, due to the mask opt-out executive order, their children are “unable to safely attend school without increased risks of serious injury or even death, unlike their nondisabled peers.”

The parents alleged in the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, Lee’s executive order and KCS’ lack of a mask mandate violates the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

WATE noted two Shelby County parents also filed a lawsuit claiming the governor’s executive order to allow parents to decide if their child wears a mask to school violates the ADA.

KCS PASS has retweeted numerous posts from teachers’ unions and others condemning school choice policies and Lee’s proposed budget plan that seeks to set aside $32 million for charter schools.

Hillsdale College, for example, announced earlier this month the school will provide assistance in support of classical charter schools in Tennessee.

KCS PASS retweeted these posts:

In late September, Judge Ronnie Greer of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled in favor of the parents, granting a temporary injunction.

“COVID-19 is now part of daily life inside their schools’ walls,” Greer wrote in his opinion, adding:

Is the invisible barrier that COVID-19 places between Plaintiffs and their classrooms necessarily any different from a physical barrier that a stairwell places between wheelchair-bound students and their classrooms? In other words, does the ADA require a board of education to make reasonable accommodations to curb COVID-19 so that highly vulnerable individuals like Plaintiffs can physically enter their school buildings, just as the ADA requires a board of education to construct a ramp so that wheelchair-bound students can physically enter their school buildings?

“Under a broad view, or really any view, the Knox County Board of Education’s failure to prospectively adopt a mask mandate—the alleged reasonable accommodation—is an injury, a concrete, actual, and ongoing injury, for which Governor Lee’s executive order is a traceable cause,” Greer continued.

The judge cited the testimony of expert Dr. Yaun, who stated, according to Greer:

[O]ur primary recommendation, which is backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC, is for universal masking for all K through 12 students. That includes students, staff, teachers, visitors, really anyone that’s in the school building[.]

In his ruling, Greer also provided a remedy for a potential situation in Knox County in which parents decide to stop sending their children to school due to the mask mandate:

If parents decline to send their children to school because they disagree with masking, the Knox County Board of Education has a response for that occurrence too. Mr. Myers testified that parents in Tennessee cannot legally refuse to send their children to school: “there would be ramifications for the family,” including possible truancy fines or charges.

As The Tennessee Star reported in October, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs called out Washington, D.C.-based litigation nonprofit Democracy Forward, with ties to the Clinton family, for its involvement in the parents’ lawsuit against Lee’s mask mandate opt-out, and its briefs filed in other lawsuits in Tennessee.

The board of directors of Democracy Forward is led by its chairman Democrat election attorney Marc E. Elias, with members Mindy Myers, Matthew Miller, and John Podesta, who served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“Their main goal is to advance a political agenda that removes the ability of parents to determine what is best for their child,” Jacobs said.

Greer has denied appeals by the Knox County Board of Education and Lee to overturn his ruling requiring KCS to continue a universal mask mandate.

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Unmasked Parent with Masked Children” by Knox County Schools.


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3 Thoughts to “Parents File Ethics Complaints Against Knox County Board of Education Members in Battle Against End to School Mask Mandate”

  1. Susan E Gingrich

    Interesting how the Sunshine Act is only taken seriously and discriminately by some, and often totally ignored by various levels of tyrannical government in TN. Too often TN laws are written loosely & do not permit any governmental body or elected official to be held accountable.

  2. The plandemic is OVER! Take the masks off. Stupid people say stupid things and do stupid things 🤦‍♀️

  3. David Blackwell RN, BSN, CCM

    Masking children is just Satanic to the core. Cloth nor surgical mask have ever been shown to reduce the spread of aerosolized virus particulate. Study after study proves that they do not work. What they do is harbor harmful bacteria which can cause strep throat and pneumonia as well as gingivitis.

    Be extremely wary of the secret handshakes between the lodge members.