(The Center Square) – Three similar lawsuits challenging Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's executive order allowing parents to opt students out of mask mandates are proceeding across the state and are at different points.
A preliminary injunction granted last week in Shelby County against Lee’s order applies to only Shelby County.
After a request for a temporary restraining order in a similar case in Knox County was denied, arguments were heard by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer last week on a request for a preliminary injunction similar to the one issued in Shelby County.
Greer previously denied the temporary restraining order because the plaintiffs in the case had not filed a verified complaint nor affidavit, and a temporary restraining order requires “specific facts in an affidavit or a verified complaint [which] clearly show that immediate an irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition.”
The lawsuit, like the other two, was filed by parents of students with disabilities. In Knox County, the parents of 8-, 10- and 12-year-old students claim Lee’s executive order violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because the order does not provide proper protection for their students, who have chronic lung disease, a rare brain disorder and a congenital heart defect.
In Shelby County, the plaintiffs in the case are 11-, 13- and 14-year-olds in Shelby County schools with disabilities that put them at higher risk for infection and side effects from infection.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in Williamson County and posted by WKRN in Nashville, the plaintiffs – 7- and 13-year-old girls who go to public schools in the county – have Down syndrome and Type-1 diabetes.
That case has yet to be heard, but the Williamson County Schools were scheduled to discuss a continuation of its mask mandate Monday night at a school board meeting.
“Scores of children are opting out, nullifying masking, spreading COVID, and creating unnecessary risk of severe illness or even death for children with disabilities,” the lawsuit said. “Even with COVID-19 rapidly spreading through its schools, Williamson County Schools have seen 13,231 children opt-out of the mandatory masking policy – 31.85% of the students.”
Each lawsuit is aimed at upending Lee's executive order.
“I can’t comment on pending litigation, but I think that what we have tried to do is recognize the value of the parents’ role, which is the highest value in deciding what is best for the school but recognizing the ability for school districts to make decisions that they think are in the best interest of their community," Lee said Friday afternoon when asked about the order.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Tennessee chapter of the AAP have joined the Shelby County families in support of the lawsuit.