After meeting with county health officials and attorneys, the Collierville Schools will enforce the Shelby County Health Department’s mask requirement for schools, the district said Monday afternoon.
“Effective immediately, any student at Collierville Schools who refuses to wear a mask / face-covering in school will be sent home,” District spokesman Mario Hogue wrote in a statement emailed. “As a reminder, the only allowable exception to the mask mandate is an ADA recognized disability.”
The district said it would require masks but had previously directed school principals not to confront parents or students over masks, Hogue told The Commercial Appeal. All unmasked students should stay in the classroom and study.
More:Shelby County students who refuse masks should be sent home, the health department says
The Shelby County’s Department of Health issued enforcement guidelines Monday morning stating that students who did not comply with the mask requirement should be sent home.
Shortly after the guidelines were released on Monday, Hogue said the district was considering the legal ramifications of notifying a child who refuses to wear the mask.
In the statement Monday afternoon, Hogue said that the superintendent of the Collierville Schools, Dr. Gary Lilly, and Assistant Superintendent Jeff Jones had a video conference with the Shelby County Health Department and a district attorney.
“It was made clear during that conference that the district is required to require and enforce universal indoor masking of all students, staff and visitors in accordance with Health Ordinance No. 24,” said Hogue. “It also confirmed that the Shelby County Health Department has the authority to close any school that poses a public health hazard due to the presence of exposed people.”
The health department says it is relying on Tennessee code 68-2-609 (4) to waive mask requirements.
The bill, signed by Governor Bill Lee in late May, changes the duties of public health officials. As quoted in the Department of Health’s press release, “The county health officer has the power to … establish rules and regulations that are necessary or appropriate to protect the general health and safety of the county.”
Some Collierville residents have spoken out against the mask mandate.
There was an anti-mask protest in front of a Collierville community building on Monday morning, local news channel WMC Action News 5 reported.
Most of the anti-mask public commentators at Monday’s Shelby County Commission meeting identified themselves as Collierville residents.
The Shelby County’s Department of Health requirement requiring masks to be worn by anyone regardless of vaccination status in a school or daycare center follows state guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
More:SCS upholds the mask mandate and is considering closings in the face of threats from the Tennessee House spokesman
More:Parents should opt for masks that can take tax dollars to leave the district, Sexton says
When it was issued on Friday, the requirement sparked a certain politicization of the issue.
Last week, Tennessee House spokesman Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville repeatedly called for a special session addressing issues with the implementation of mask mandates in the districts or the decision to close due to the virus.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is unwilling to say whether he will support calling lawmakers back for a special session to address masking requirements in schools.
And he’s unwilling to confirm whether he would stand behind the legislation to prevent local officials from setting their own mask guidelines for students and teachers.
More:Governor Bill Lee says school boards have the right to set mask mandates – for now
“The way the laws are in this state gives school districts the power to make those decisions,” Lee told reporters Monday morning after speaking at a nationwide conference for county emergency management officials in Franklin.
He also criticized the Shelby County Health Department’s request.
“Having the health department override those school districts’ decisions wasn’t the best approach in my opinion,” said Lee.
Tennessee reporter Natalie Allison contributed.
Laura Testino covers educational and children’s issues for commercial appeal. You can reach them at [email protected] or 901-512-3763. Find her on Twitter: @LDTestino