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Two new filings in the Knox Schools judge ordered mask mandate

Officials said the mandate cannot be enforced and is denying other children the right to an education.
Published: Oct. 2, 2021 at 12:43 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:23 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Two new motions have been filed by both sides of the court-ordered schools mask mandate.

Attorneys for the Knox County Board of Education filed a response to the plaintiff’s earlier motion to alter or amend the judge’s mask mandate.

In the response attorneys for KCS said in the response that the issuing of allowing further exemptions to the court order mask mandate is of critical importance to the school system and asked the judge to rule on that issue as soon as possible.

The lawyers for KCS said that it does not believe that getting a note from a physician is appropriate to allow an exemption. “Teachers and other staff spend over 1,200 hours with a student each year. A treating physician is simply not qualified to determine if a student is instructionally or behaviorally able to wear a mask,” attorneys for the school board said in the response.

The school system is asking in the filing for school staff to be allowed to issue exemptions, as they did the last school year.

In a response, attorneys for the plaintiffs said in court documents that rare exemptions should be made for children and adults with disabilities who are unable to wear a mask.

“Knox County’s remaining objections, it seems involve identity politics or the occasional rabble-rouser having no medical or legal voice,” plaintiffs lawyers said.

The Knox County School Board has asked a federal judge to suspend a sweeping court-imposed mask mandate until the case that sparked that mandate is resolved. In court documents filed Friday, the board said suspending the mandate is appropriate because KCBOE can demonstrate, “a likelihood of success on the merits.”

A group of families are suing the school system under the Americans With Disabilities Act, claiming a lack of universal masking puts their children at risk for severe illness and possibly even death from COVID-19.

Tuesday, schools implemented the mandate allowing only students with autism or tracheotomies to be exempt from wearing masks at school. Despite the mandate, hundreds of students refusing masks continued to report to school throughout the week.

In the motion filed Friday in federal court, the school board said requiring 60,000 students to wear masks is not a reasonable accommodation under the American with Disabilities Act.

The motion stated:

“Even in the few days that the mask mandate has been in place, KCBOE and its students have suffered irreparable harm that is likely to continue. Unlike the Plaintiffs’ theoretical denial of access, some special education students are now being denied actual access to the schools because they must be sent home if they are medically, behaviorally, or developmentally unable to wear masks.”

The motion also stated that the school board feels it is at risk of lawsuits from other students who are unable to medically, behaviorally or developmentally wear a mask, but are now required to do so.

Since the temporary mask order, the school board said Facebook groups had posted about organizing protests and suggesting students to attend schools unmasked in form of protest.

According to officials, students at Farragut schools were being called “sheep” while walking past protesting adults who were allegedly trying to physically disrupt their path to school.

The school board also stated that the mask mandate had exacerbated their staffing shortage.

After refusing masks,16 staff members were sent home without pay on Sept. 28 which left approximately 200 students without their teacher or paraprofessional. Only one had returned to work on Sept. 29.

According to officials, KCS currently has 82 vacant teaching/student support positions that are unfilled.

To read the motion:

To read the latest motions filed on Monday October 4:

BOE Response by WVLT News on Scribd

This is the response from the plaintiffs on Monday October 4:

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