(The Center Square) – A federal judge ruled Friday schools in Shelby County can enforce a mask mandate despite Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's executive order giving parents the ability to opt out of mask mandates.
U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman issued the temporary restraining order, which will run through Sept. 17. A hearing is scheduled on the matter at 10 a.m. Thursday.
“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,” the ruling read.
The lawsuit, filed Aug. 27, claims Lee’s executive order allowing parents to opt school children out of mask mandates violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because it does not allow the plaintiffs “to access reasonable protection from the threat of exposure to COVID-19.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two students, identified by their initials. The named parties, Brittany and Ryan Schwaigert, along with Emily Tremel, are identified as parents and next friends.
“At this stage, Defendant Lee argues that Plaintiffs have not properly exhausted their administrative remedies under the IDEA, have no standing to bring these claims, and improperly raise a disparate impact claim against the State under the Rehabilitation Act and ADA,” a summary of the arguments stated.
One plaintiff is identified as a 13-year-old boy attending West Middle School, a public school in Shelby County, who “despite being vaccinated, he is therefore at a heightened risk of severe injury or death if he contracts COVID-19, and cannot wear a mask due to his disability.”
The other plaintiff is identified as an 11-year-old girl attending Houston Middle School, another public school in Shelby County, who “suffers from a chromosomal abnormality that causes episodic ataxia, which can be triggered by increased body temperature, such as what occurs when someone has a fever.”
The court ruled the four factors for issuing the temporary restraining order were met, including: likelihood of success based on merits, irreparable harm, no harm to third parties and injunctive relief in the public interest.