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Federal judge in Tennessee allows school district to continue mask mandate

By Jake Thomas
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Federal judge in Tennessee allows school district to continue mask mandate
A man adjusts the face mask of a child before before the child enters Public School 15 in New York City in September 29, 2020. As masks have been a culture wars flashpoint, a judge in Tennessee allowed a local school district to keep requirements for face coverings in place. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 23 (UPI) -- A federal judge has blocked an executive order by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee allowing parents to opt-out of school mask mandates from being enforced in Williamson County.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by two families of children with disabilities against Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District, as well as state authorities, reports The Tennessean. The lawsuit argued that removing the mask mandates put medically vulnerable children at greater risk from COVID-19.

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"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 issued Friday.

Other federal judges in Memphis and Knoxville issued similar opinions finding that disabled students were at greater risk of a severe infection of the virus, the paper reports.

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

The ruling is the latest in legal battles that sprung up over mask mandates. Last month, ​​Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued six school districts that defied a similar statewide ban on masking requirements. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened the pay of school board officials who backed mask mandates.

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