The resistance to masks is particularly devastating for parents like Ms. Hart, who see classroom teaching as a lifeline for their children with disabilities. These students were among the most underserved during the pandemic, but are sometimes more likely to go to school making them seriously ill.
Tennessee is one of seven states where the Department of Education is investigating whether governors’ orders that allow families to disregard school masking discriminate against students with disabilities by restricting their access to education.
Although many local school boards, including Williamson County’s, have voted in favor of universal masking, an executive order issued by Governor Bill Lee, a Republican, allows parents to send their children to school without a mask without asking questions. At the high school Ms. Hart’s son attends, data released weekly by the district shows that more than 30 percent of parents have officially de-registered, a percentage that reflects the district’s overall score.
“We always knew that not everyone really took care of our children, but we now understand – that it is not worth asking your child to wear a mask so that my child can be safe,” said Ms. Hard. who is a researcher and trained epidemiologist. “This is the scar I’ll wear from the pandemic that keeps playing on my face over and over again.”
Parents of special school children in two Tennessee counties, east and west of the state, have sued governor’s orders; a lawsuit is successful. A third, covering Williamson County, had a judge hearing this week.
In the most recent complaint, three attorneys argued that the governor, the Williamson County School Board, and a carve-out district within the county called the Franklin Special School District are violating the rights of special school students by allowing parents to sign off their children’s mandate.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of one student with Down syndrome and another with type 1 diabetes, but seeks protection for all “similarly situated” students. “The actions of the defendants played off children against children and at the same time endangered the health and safety of medically vulnerable children with disabilities,” the complaint said.