The mask mandate for students, staff and volunteers for Williamson County Schools and the Franklin Special School District has been extended by a ruling from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
“The current ruling will remain in effect until a further order of the Court,” WCS Communications Director Carol Birdsong wrote in an email to families and staff. “At this point, we do not know the exact time frame of when we will receive that further order, but we will notify you when we do.”
On Sept. 24, about six weeks after Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order that allowed parents in school districts across the state to opt-out of any mask requirements, U.S. District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr. issued a temporary restraining order that blocked Lee’s opt-out clause. That was set to expire Tuesday at 11:59 p.m., but the restraining order was extended pending a ruling on the preliminary injunction hearing that is ongoing.
“If your child has previously been granted a religious or medical exemption, those exemptions will continue to be honored,” Birdsong wrote. “The same applies to staff. … If your child has been excused from wearing a mask due to the voluntary parental opt-outs that have been granted under Executive Order 84, your child will continue to be required to wear a face covering to school.”
Judge Crenshaw’s ruling is in regard to a lawsuit filed by two families against the state of Tennessee, Williamson County Schools and the Franklin Special School District. The court identified the plaintiffs as families of a 13-year-old seventh-grader with Down syndrome and a 7-year-old second grader with type-1 diabetes.
In addition to the temporary restraining order that blocks Gov. Lee's executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of the district's mask mandates, the court also ordered WCS and the FSSD to enforce their mask mandates without the provisions of Executive Order 84.
It reasoned that to do otherwise would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The judge ruled that a universal mask mandate is a reasonable accommodation required for access to educational services for individuals with disabilities.