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Knox Co. school board votes to end mask policy, votes against community engagement resolution

Today’s vote came as a part of a larger workshop for the board of education that addressed school safety and the mask mandate still in place.
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Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 10:27 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Knox County Schools Board of Education met in a Wednesday night meeting to discuss the mask policy in schools and a resolution outlining community involvement in Memorandum of Agreements that involve law enforcement when it comes to school safety and security.

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First on up for discussion was the resolution, proposed by board member Daniel Watson. He said the resolution was to establish a moderator that would be involved and engage with the community in furthering discussion about school security.

The resolution was first discussed during a work session meeting last week where Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas sent a joint memo to the Knox County Schools Board of Education, Knox Co. leadership and Knox County law enforcement saying KPD officers would be withdrawn from Knox County Schools on June 12.

During this week’s meeting, board member Daniel Watson expressed that his resolution never contained any language that suggested removing KPD officers out of schools. He said that it would provide transparency in the process of decision making.

The board gave members of the public time to speak during public public forum, where many expressed their opinions about the mayor’s decision. Following public forum, board members discussed the resolution and prepared for a vote.

“I am not really sure I can support this resolution,” board member Patti Bounds said. She expressed that she found issue with language in the resolution containing the idea of “historical compound and trauma” and “affirming Black lives”.

Watson explained these sections of the resolution were put in place by a previous Juneteenth resolution, which the board had previously voted in favor of.

The board decided against the resolution in a 6-3 vote. Board members Watson, Satterfield and Owen voted in favor of the resolution, while members Horne, Bounds, Henderson, Babb, Kristy and McMillian voted against it.

Immediately following that decision, members of the audience voiced their disapproval, saying they wanted to have a say in the process while shouting at board members. Two people from the crowd was asked to leave but no arrests were made.

This decision came after Watson said he was confident the resolution, which he believed would have provided transparency in the process of how decisions are made, would pass last week.

The board took a 10 minute break and then resumed the meeting to discuss mask requirements in Knox County Schools.

Following another public forum session, the board voted to end its current mask policy on May 26, after the last day of school.

Masks will not be required over the summer, as there is no current plan in place.

Today’s vote came as a part of a larger workshop for the board of education that addressed school safety and the mask mandate still in place. The board came under the spotlight for the mask mandate when Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs ended the county-wide mandate on April 27th.

In a board meeting after the mandate ended, Superintendent Bob Thomas called the district’s mask mandate a “fluid situation.”

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