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Third judge blocks Gov. Lee’s mask opt out in schools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A 3rd federal decide has blocked Tennessee Gov. Invoice Lee’s order permitting households to decide out of college masks mandates.

The choice, handed down by US District Choose Waverly Crenshaw late Friday, is the newest growth within the ongoing authorized battle over Lee’s order launched by mother and father and advocates alarmed over the spike in coronavirus circumstances in Tennessee’s colleges.

Lee issued the order in August after a handful of Republican lawmakers demanded the governor name a particular session so the GOP-dominant Common Meeting may halt masks mandates in colleges and different COVID-19 security measures. Many college students have been attending courses with out masks ever since as pediatric hospitalizations reached file highs.

Crenshaw’s order solely applies to Williamson County, an prosperous area simply south of Nashville. Earlier that day, a separate decide halted Lee’s government order in Knox County. Per week prior, one other decide indefinitely banned Lee’s order after households argued the governor’s government order endangered their youngsters.

All three lawsuits claimed that Lee’s order violates the Individuals with Disabilities Act, which prohibits the exclusion of scholars with disabilities from public instructional packages and actions. Youngsters with sure disabilities are extra susceptible to severe sickness or loss of life in the event that they get COVID-19, the US Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention has stated.

“Based mostly on the file earlier than the courtroom, because of the rise in COVID-19 circumstances in Williamson County, together with at plaintiffs’ colleges, together with a major variety of college students who’ve opted out, plaintiffs have likewise been denied entry to a secure, in-person training expertise,” Crenshaw wrote in his 18-page resolution.

“Gov. Lee has provided no affidavits, declarations, or some other factual predicate to help his assertion that common masks mandates would require vital assets,” the decide added.

Lee informed reporters Friday that he couldn’t discuss concerning the particular litigation however identified that there had been a number of lawsuits in opposition to masks mandates.

“There are very robust opinions on each side of this. I believe that’s why the technique we took, which allowed districts to supply a requirement however gave mother and father an opt-out, was a great way ahead,” Lee stated. “And we nonetheless consider that’s the correct course.”

Crenshaw’s ruling is in impact till Oct. 5, the identical day Lee’s order is ready to run out. The governor has not stated if he’ll lengthen it.

Public well being companies say indoor mask-wearing is a key coronavirus-prevention device. The CDC says masks don’t pose well being dangers for youngsters older than toddlers, and recommends them for colleges since vaccines nonetheless aren’t licensed for youngsters youthful than 12.

COVID-19 circumstances in youngsters have risen considerably in the course of the surge that coincided with the beginning of the present college 12 months, making it tough for some Tennessee college districts to supply in-person training. Some colleges have closed school rooms, whereas others have quickly switched to digital studying as college students are compelled to quarantine or isolate.

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