Second Tennessee judge blocks Gov. Lee's mask opt-out
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday handed down a second blow to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's contentious order allowing parents to opt out of school mask requirements, ruling that Knox County Schools must implement a mask mandate to help protect children with health problems amid the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer's decision also blocks Lee's order from being implemented while the legal battle continues to move its way through court.
This is the second time in a week that Lee's order has been placed on pause as families and advocates across the state have filed a handful of lawsuits amid spiking virus case numbers in schools. In Shelby County, while the school district had implemented a strict mask mandate, a federal judge indefinitely banned Lee's order after families argued the governor's executive order endangered their children.
"It is real, and likely. Knox County students are being infected right now, every day, at a rate of 162 students every day ... and the threat of harm is therefore (immediate)," Greer wrote in his 56-page ruling.
A spokesperson for the attorney general's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lee told reporters Friday that he couldn't talk about the specific litigation but pointed out that there had been multiple lawsuits against mask mandates.
“There are very strong opinions on both sides of this. I think that’s why the strategy we took, which allowed districts to provide a requirement but gave parents an opt-out, was a good way forward," Lee said. "And we still believe that’s the right direction.”
The lawsuit was filed by four families in Knox County who have children with medical conditions and are too young to qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine. The suit alleges that Lee and...