A Shelby County family is asking a federal judge to rescind Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order on masking in schools. The order lets parents opt out of masking, with no need to give a reason. The outcome may have national ramifications.
The Schwaigert family of Collierville argues that Lee’s order puts their teenager at risk. Their child suffers from tuberous sclerosis and is at high risk for severe complications if they were to contract COVID-19, so they say Lee’s order violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
That’s also the premise of a federal probe by the U.S. Department of Education. They’re looking at the masking policies in Tennessee, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah. In the letter, education officials point out that Florida’s masking policy was struck down last week.
Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper ruled that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis overstepped his authority when he issued an executive order preventing mask mandates.
The Schwaigerts’ attorney expects a ruling in Tennessee no later than Thursday. A decision in their favor could give more weight to the Department of Education’s claim that masking opt-outs violate the civil rights of students.
That would be a victory for students regardless of their medical status, says state Sen. Raumesh Akbari, a Democrat who represents Shelby County.
“I think that this opt-out provision that the governor introduced through executive order is really detrimental to our students,” Akbari said. “Not just those who have disabilities, which is a matter of life or death. But for all students to make sure that they are staying in the classroom learning.”