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Collierville woman, teen join lawsuit against Tennessee governor

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 7:44 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A third family has joined a federal lawsuit against Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.

The families are suing the governor over his executive order, which allows parents to opt their kids out of wearing a mask at school.

The families say their children have conditions that put them at higher risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19 if they get infected.

The judge’s temporary restraining order, which blocks the governor’s executive order in Shelby County, is set to expire Friday. The judge is considering a request for a preliminary injunction, which could block the governor’s order for a longer period of time.

A Collierville woman and her 14-year-old daughter are the third and newest plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against Lee.

They join two other families in the suit, which includes another family from Collierville and a family from Germantown.

According to court documents, the 14-year-old is immunocompromised and “prone to illness and suffers significantly more severe symptoms when she acquires an infection.”

Her attorneys say the governor’s executive order puts her at greater risk for COVID-19.

“She wants to be able to attend school, she wants to be able to sit in communal spaces with her peers,” said Brice Timmons, an attorney representing the Shelby County families. “She doesn’t want to have to eat lunch by herself in the library. She wants to be able to go to school like every other student.”

Attorneys for the families say the governor’s executive order violates federal laws designed to protect children with disabilities.

Attorneys for the governor say those laws don’t apply in this case and suggest the parents pursue other avenues like working with schools to come up with special accommodations.

That is an argument attorneys for the families reject.

“The very fact that the state has attempted to weaponize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as a way of stopping disabled children from getting relief is reprehensible,” said Timmons.

The federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, blocking the governor’s executive order at least until Friday.

The judge, U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman, is considering a request for a preliminary injunction.

If granted, it could block the governor’s order for a longer period of time.

Lipman is also hearing a similar lawsuit brought by Shelby County government against the governor.

The next hearing in that case is set for October 1.

A federal judge in east Tennessee is also hearing a lawsuit brought by parents in Knoxville.

That judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order but is holding a preliminary injunction hearing Wednesday.

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