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Parents protest in favor of mask mandates in Collierville schools

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT
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COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - While Shelby County Schools is sticking to its mask mandate, parents in a different district are fighting to put one in place.

There are more than 9,100 students enrolled in Collierville schools this year, according to Superintendent Dr. Gary Lilly.

Two weeks into the new school year, 16 percent of parents have made it official--- they don’t want their children to mask up in the classroom, and they are taking advantage of Governor Bill Lee’s executive order that allows Tennessee parents to opt their kids out of school mask mandates.

But the remainder of Collierville parents, 84 percent, want to play it as safely as possible during this deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

At Tuesday night’s Collierville School Board meeting in the auditorium of Collierville High School, about a dozen parents urged the board and superintendent to enforce mandatory masking for all children to reduce the spread of the virus.

“I’m not here to debate vaccines,” said Art Call, a parent with two middle schoolers in the system. “I’m here to make sure our schools are safe. We send our kids to school for eight hours a day.”

Yan Lu, a Collierville mom and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital employee told Action News 5, “I respect freedom and the rights of all the parents, but freedom comes with responsibility.”

A handful of parents also spoke out in support of Lee’s executive order, allowing them the power to get their kids out of wearing a mask at school.

“Masks do not stop the virus,” said Bob Hendry, a retired member of the military who has children and grandchildren in the district. “The virus is simply too small for even the most tightly woven surgical mask to stop it.”

Collierville father and St. Jude infectious disease doctor, Diego Hijano, respectfully disagreed with Hendry.

“We know masks have always been safe and they continue to be safe,” said Hijano. “They continually save our patients, even before COVID, without any problems.”

A brief verbal altercation followed outside between a woman who declined to give her name and several pro-mask parents, including Kelly Miller, whose daughter is a heart transplant recipient.

“When what your actions are doing is potentially causing harm to others, then I’m sorry. That’s a freedom that should no longer be afforded to you because you could harm people,” said Miller.

Lilly told Action News 5 his hands are tied on the mask issue.

“I’m sure the board members appreciated and listened to comments they heard,” said Lilly. “But legally, we just don’t have any latitude. We have to follow the governor’s order.”

Worried parents, fearing for their children’s safety, are now left to wonder.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” said Collierville mom Chelsea Glass, “There’s a mask mandate for the entire county with the exception of schools. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Collierville schools provide a dashboard online with data about COVID cases in the district. At last check, 182 students and 11 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Hundreds more students have had to quarantine because they came into contact with those infected students.

A 16-year-old Collierville High School student told the school board that two weeks in quarantine is more disruptive to her education than having to wear a mask in the classroom.

To view the COVID dashboard, click here.

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