Unmasked students to be counted absent, sent home says Superintendent Thomas
Students will no longer be permitted to stay in school without masks, Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas said.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas sent a letter to parents Wednesday outlining the school district’s response to Federal Judge Ronnie Greer’s temporary masking order.
Under the order, Knox County Schools must enforce the same masking policy it had for the 2020 - 2021 school year, with the exception that now schools must report to the court who is exempt from the mandate and why.
Superintendent Thomas’ letter said that students who do not follow the mask mandate will no longer be sent to isolation rooms. Instead, they will be sent home and counted absent.
“Non-masked students who can be immediately transported by a parent or guardian will need to return home,” the letter reads. “Non-masked students who arrive at school by bus or who decide to take their mask off while at school will remain in an administrative designated area while a parent or guardian is called to pick them up.”
The letter further states that students who refuse a mask and are counted absent will not be provided access to assignments while at school. The students who are marked absent will be required to complete make-up work as outlined in the district’s attendance policy.
The letter comes after the court responded to a series of filings by Knox County Schools. Legal experts tell WVLT News that Judge Greer’s decision could impact other East Tennessee school districts as well.
The letter in full can be read here:
Dear KCS families,
I apologize for sending this email over fall break, but I wanted you to have the latest information as it relates to U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer’s ruling yesterday regarding the mask mandate.
This update gives the district the ability to authorize a mask exemption or accommodation for a student if there is documentation that demonstrates a medical need. Please note that the blanket exemption for autism and tracheotomy no longer exists. Additionally, an IEP or a 504 does not automatically exempt your child from the mask mandate. Students who were eligible last year based on a pre-existing IEP or 504 plan and an approved exemption will be exempt beginning on Monday, Oct. 18. If you believe your student has a diagnosis requiring a masking accommodation but is not identified as receiving services under an IEP or 504, please notify your child’s principal. Based on the Court’s order, these decisions will be approved by the district and not at the school level.
The order makes clear that the mask mandate is universal, and we should not be allowing students to come to school without masks: “The record evidence supports the need for — and the Court ordered — a universal mask mandate, and the Court fully expects its mask mandate to be exactly that: universal, to every possible extent, with ‘very few’ medical exemptions,” the court filing states.
This means that all students and staff who do not qualify for an exemption and visitors will be required to wear a mask while inside our facilities.
Non-masked students who can be immediately transported by a parent or guardian will need to return home.
Non-masked students who arrive at school by bus or who decide to take their mask off while at school will remain in an administrative designated area while a parent or guardian is called to pick them up.
Per the Knox County Law Department, the order requires universal masking and states that students who refuse are subject to truancy; as such, students who refuse to wear a mask will be counted absent and will not be provided access to assignments while at school. Students who are marked absent will follow the district’s make-up work guidelines as outlined in Attendance Policy J-120.
Thank you for your support and cooperation.
Copyright 2021 WVLT. All rights reserved.