Lawsuit filed almost immediately after mask mandate ban becomes law in Tennessee

Published: Nov. 13, 2021 at 9:36 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shortly after the mask mandate ban was signed into law by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, a lawsuit was filed against Lee and his education secretary Penny Schwinn.

These plaintiffs say the law is unconstitutional and that they represent thousands more who feel the same.

The plaintiffs are eight Tennessee students, ranging from ages 8-14, from across the state who have disabilities and immunodeficiencies.

The lawsuit is being filed through their parents.

“It was filed almost immediately after he signed the bill into law,” said Action News 5 Political Analyst Mike Nelson. “The lawsuit is filed in Federal court in Nashville but with plaintiffs from across the state.”

Two of those students are from Germantown and Collierville.

The Germantown student, labeled in the lawsuit as E.W. due to being a minor is an eight-year-old boy who has autism and severe pediatric ulcerative colitis with a compromised immune system.

The Collierville student is labeled in the suit as J.M. and is a fourteen-year-old girl who has primary immunodeficiencies.

The argument behind this suit is that the newly signed law “makes it impossible for public school districts to simultaneously comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)” among other Federal laws such as the Equal Protection Clause and the Supremacy Clause.

“It basically says that government entities, including school systems, cannot require masks or vaccines,” Nelson clarified.

It also prevents private employers from mandating vaccines to their employees, which conflicts with President Joe Biden’s controversial OSHA vaccine mandate.

The law would allow for school principals to implement mask mandates but only if the county where the school is shows a fourteen-day rolling average of 1,000 new cases per 100,000 residents.

Even then, the mandate could only be for two weeks.

The plaintiffs compare this rationale to “forbidding firefighters from entering the house until it is engulfed or forbidding beachgoers from evacuating until the hurricane touches down.”

What’s more is school funds can only be used to purchase N-95 masks, which are more effective against the spread of COVID-19 but also more expensive.

Schools who implement mask mandates are subject to having funding pulled from the state Department of Education.

“You’ve got mixed messaging coming down to, for example, Shelby County schools,” said Nelson. “You’ve got mixed messages in Mississippi and Tennessee. You’ve got mixed messages between the government in Washington and the government in Tennessee.”

The plaintiffs are pleading with the court to issue a temporary restraining order as well as a preliminary injunction to keep the now signed law from being implemented.

Here in Shelby County is where things get caught in the political weeds.

Because there are already active lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Lee’s previous mask order along with this new mask law, students attending school in Shelby County must still mask up.

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