Decide Hears Objections To Tennessee Governor’s Order Making Sporting Masks In Faculty A Parental Selection

August 30, 2021

Looking for a restraining order to halt Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s executive order that allows students to refuse to wear masks, attorneys for two of Shelby County’s parents told a federal judge Monday that the order was one Develop “unreasonably dangerous environments” for children at high risk of serious complications for COVID and violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, who are parents of children with disabilities, say their medically vulnerable children of their peers must wear masks to allow immunocompromised children to study in a safe environment.

Lee phrased his appointment as a decision for the parents. But it questions a Shelby County mask mandate in school buildings that was enacted Aug. 6.

U.S. District Judge Sheryl Halle Lipman of the Western District of Tennessee has not ruled on the injunction, but is expected to make a decision quickly. It gave the parties 24 hours to submit written closing arguments and rebuttals.

In addition to attorneys from both sides, county lawyers were also present, expressing support for the parents’ complaint, which coincides with a similar case they filed against the governor on Thursday. Also in attendance were members of the legal team from Shelby County Schools, the largest county in the state. Shelby County School officials have continued to promote universal masking despite orders from the governor. Donati Law represents the plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs, Brittany Schwaigert, mother of a 13-year-old boy attending West Middle School in the Collierville Municipal School District, and Emily Tremel, mother of an 11-year-old girl attending Houston Middle School in the Germantown Municipal School District, appeared before Lipman. Tremel appeared virtual because her child recently tested positive for COVID following the governor’s opt-out instruction.

“It completely disrupted her school year,” Tremel said of the COVID diagnosis and the resulting quarantine.

Tremel’s daughter has a chromosomal abnormality that causes episodic ataxia, a condition that affects movement and the nervous system, and congenital nystagmus that causes involuntary eye movements. With nystagmus making online learning difficult, Tremel said she was relieved when the county passed its mask ordinance as it gave her daughter the opportunity to safely attend school with her peers.

She said about 10 to 20% of students at her daughter’s school were attended without masks after the governor’s August 16 opt-out.

“We were horrified when that decision was made,” she said. “The only thing that was there to protect our child has now been taken away.”

Co-parent and plaintiff Schwaigert added that the governor’s order had “changed everything” about her child’s safety at school. Her son has autism and is also immunocompromised from chemotherapy he is taking to treat tuberous sclerosis complex, a genetic condition that causes polycystic kidney disease, epilepsy, and high blood pressure. Since the order of the executive, he is now 15 minutes late to school so as not to stand in the hallway with exposed children.

Prosecutor’s Jim Newsom argued that the lawsuit was premature because parents had not exhausted the appeal process available to families with children with disabilities. Newsom said the correct way is to file a complaint with school and district officials and then with the State Department of Education.

Schwaigert said that during a “tense” email exchange, a Collierville school official told her that the district’s hands were tied because of the governor’s position.

The defense did not call any witnesses.

The judge also heard from two medical experts called in by the plaintiffs, both of whom said that the pandemic had entered a new and more serious phase with the more contagious and dangerous Delta variant.

Dr. Sara Cross, an infectious disease doctor at Regional One Health, said health officials are bracing for a grim September as their models predict a peak in infections by the end of the month.

Dr. Joi Wilson-Townsend, a pediatrician with the Memphis Children’s Clinic, added that they are already feeling the effects of the governor’s opt-out instructions.

“Last month we were completely overwhelmed by COVID. It’s completely different from a year ago, ”said Wilson-Townsend.

Wilson-Townsend added that Shelby County’s disproportionately high numbers of children have diabetes, obesity and asthma and are particularly at risk.

“Not having a child masked puts more stress on other children in the classroom,” she said.

Earlier in the day, teacher organizations and allies pushed the state to allow local counties to require masks and switch completely to the virtual school at a virtual press conference.

“We support our district’s efforts to ensure the safety of our students and staff, including the use of mask requirements,” said Danette Stokes, president of the United Education Association of Shelby County. “The state spent millions of dollars on a public health campaign: ‘Face it, masks work.’ It is wrong for them to distance themselves from this basic fact. “

Matt Barnum contributed to the coverage.

This press release was prepared by Chalkbeat Tennessee. The views expressed here are your own.

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