Representatives from a school advocacy group have filed a lawsuit against Williamson County Schools and the Board of Education over the district’s mandate that all students, teachers and staff wear masks throughout the school day while on campus.
Gary Humble, who heads the nonprofit Recall Williamson that was founded earlier this summer, displayed a message on the group’s Facebook page addressed to WCS Superintendent Jason Golden and board members that reads simply, “You have been served.”
Humble, on behalf of other “concerned parents,” filed the lawsuit Friday in Williamson County Chancery Court, stating that the mandate requiring students to wear a face covering goes beyond the “authority delegated to the local school board by the General Assembly and is otherwise unlawful.”
In addition to Humble, plaintiffs include Tony and Heather Bates and Chelsea Gilbert. Each have children in the WCS district, and Humble and the Bates have withdrawn their kids from school, according to the complaint, “based solely upon the mandate issued by WCS requiring students to wear masks on campus.”
On its website, Recall Williamson states: “We believe that mandating masks to be worn by children on a daily basis is unhealthy and counterproductive to those stated goals. We invite board members of Williamson County Schools to reconsider this framework and remove the mask mandate.”
The requirements for face coverings were stated when the return-to-school plan was announced by Golden in July. The Franklin Special School District also mandates the wearing of masks by students and staff on campus.
Golden spoke to the importance of masks being worn during the August Board of Education meeting, just days before students were to begin returning in person to schools.
“We’re in that range where it is appropriate for us to be on campus,” he said. “I’m encouraged by where we are and where we’re going to go. Now with that said, I think it’s very important that we emphasize following those safety protocols.
“When we go back on campus, we’re not going to be able to stop people from being near each other over the course of class periods. It’s just the nature and size of the classrooms, and so the importance of wearing masks becomes even greater.”
While WCS buildings have been opened to all students for just over two weeks now, conditions could change to the extent that the return to virtual teaching is a possibility. In its complaint, Recall Williamson indicated that would be detrimental as well.
“The distance learning option WCS provides students is not substantially equal to the educational opportunities each would receive when attending in-person instruction at their respective WCS schools, or in other school districts without a mandate,” the complaint reads.
“Thus, in denying students the opportunity to attend in-person classes based solely upon their failure to abide by WCS’ unlawful mandate, WCS denies its students substantially equal educational opportunities available to other students within the state.”