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Judge rules on Knox County masking exemptions

The court agreed to some exemption filings from the Board of Education, but denied others.
Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 12:20 PM EDT
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Masks in Knox County Schools

LIVE: Judge rules on masking exceptions in Knox County Schools https://bit.ly/3v5c1Ix

Posted by WVLT on Tuesday, October 12, 2021

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The federal judge that ordered Knox County Schools to implement a masking mandate has responded to recent filings in the case, ruling that Knox County Schools may enforce last year’s masking policy with some caveats.

Judge Ronnie Greer originally put the masking mandate in place in September after some Knox County families sued the school district, claiming the lack of a masking policy put their children at risk and denied them a public education. The masking policy set forth by Judge Greer only allowed exceptions for those with autism or tracheotomies.

Shortly after, the Knox County Board of Education filed for a list of exemptions in the masking policy and later filed to make changes to the policy itself. After days of waiting, Judge Greer issued a ruling on the exemptions Tuesday morning.

Under the new ruling, Knox County Schools may now enforce a masking policy similar to the one put in place for the 2020 - 2021 school year with some exceptions.

“The Court will therefore permit the Knox County Board of Education, for the time being, to operate under Policy C-240 as it did during last year’s mask mandate, but not without first issuing a parting caveat,” the ruling said.

Last year’s masking policy allowed students and staff to exempt themselves from the mandate if they had written cause from a doctor. The new ruling now requires the Knox County Board of Education to submit monthly reports for anyone who obtains an exemption. The report must include the person’s name, reason for exemption and must say whether or not they were exempt from last year’s mandate.

“The Court will order the Knox County Board of Education to file monthly status reports in which it identifies the number of exemptions it grants every month for students, employees, and visitors; the full names of the exempted individuals; and the specific reasons for their exemptions,” the order said. “The Knox County Board of Education shall also inform the Court as to whether any exempted individual received an exemption under last year’s mask mandate as well.”

The order was also critical of the school district, saying that the Board of Education’s calls against the mandate were meritless.

“[The Knox County Board of Education] now blames the Court instead of itself for its own lack of foresight. Its cry of manifest injustice is therefore at best meritless and at worst disingenuous,” the order said.

The court also reserved judgement on any remaining arguments from the Board of Education.

You can read the ruling in full here:

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