Student mask

A Summit High School student wears a mask during the 2020 graduation ceremony.

A lawsuit against Williamson County Schools over the district’s mask mandate has been dismissed by a Williamson County Chancery Court judge.

The lawsuit filed by Recall Williamson, an advocacy group that was founded after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, aimed to end the mask mandate that was introduced in schools across the county in response to the ongoing public health crisis.

Lawyers for WCS filed a motion to dismiss the case in September 2020, and on April 30, 2021, Judge Michael Binkley granted that dismissal, ending the lawsuit. 

Although the suit against the school system was dismissed, Recall Williamson insisted in an online video that the ruling was actually a victory for them and their supporters because the judge denied WCS’s Motion to Dismiss or For Summary Judgement.

"The Court is not convinced, as a matter of law, that WCBOE acted within its statutory authority at the time it promulgated its face-covering requirements. Further, the policy decisions promulgated by Mayor Anderson and Governor Lee in February 2021 and April 2021 are inconsistent with WCBOE's continued enforcement of face-covering requirements," the ruling reads in part.

While the ruling does say, "The Court cannot find, as a matter of law, Defendants have acted within the authority given to them by the legislature when enacting face-covering requirements," it’s not clear that the ruling actually means that the school system acted unlawfully, but that the court was not convinced that they did act lawfully.

That was echoed by lawyers for WCS, who addressed possible confusion about that section of the ruling in an email. 

“Here, the Judge concluded that he could not, at the summary judgment stage, definitively state whether the Board’s enumerated statutory authorities included, or did not include, the authority to implement a mask mandate,” the statement reads in part, adding that they do not plan to appeal the ruling.

Judge Binkley also ruled that the mask mandate within schools was supported by a rational basis, being an effort to address the public health crisis, and that the mandate resulted in no injuries to the plaintiffs and did not deprive any student of their right to equal educational opportunities.

“Here, as succinctly stated by Defendants, ‘Plaintiffs have failed to identify any legal authority to support the contention that their children have a legal right to receive a free and public education on-site at a school location without wearing a face covering,” the ruling reads in part.

With the school year coming to a close and the decline of positive COVID-19 diagnoses, in part due to the rise in vaccinated populations, it’s unclear what the future of masks will be in WCS.

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