State Watch

Judge sides with Tennessee families in mask mandate fight

A judge in Tennessee sided with two families to continue to block Gov. Bill Lee's (R) executive order that allows parents to opt their children out of a mask mandate in schools. 

"The record before the Court establishes that temporary universal mask mandates adopted by the Williamson County and Franklin school systems have been, and likely would continue to be, effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19," U.S. District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw wrote in his opinion, The Tennessean reported.  

The news comes after families from Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District who have children with disabilities sued after Lee issued the executive order. The families argued that the order is harmful to their children's health. 

Lee, along with other Republican governors and lawmakers like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have stated they believe wearing a mask should be a personal choice made by a child and their guardian. 

"Disabled students are at a significantly higher risk for severe infection" from the coronavirus, Crenshaw said, adding the executive order from Lee causes "an irreparable harm that justifies continued injunctive relief," according to the outlet.

This is not the first time Crenshaw and other judges have blocked Lee's executive order. 

Crenshaw and U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer of the Eastern District of Tennessee both issued preliminary injunctions against Lee's executive order at the end of September.

At the time, the Greer instructed the schools to put a mask mandate in place in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits businesses, states and local governments and other entities from discriminating based on disability. 

"Executive Order No. 84 violates federal law and must yield," Crenshaw said Friday.

The attorney for the two families celebrated the most recent decision by Crenshaw. 

"This is a masterpiece decision that leaves no doubt that masking is necessary to protect medically fragile children and the greater school community," Justin Gilbert, the attorney for the families, said. 

The Hill has reached out to the governor's office for comment.