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Parents and governor react to judge’s preliminary injunction

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 6:48 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A victory tonight for three Shelby County couples who sued Tennessee Governor Bill Lee over his decision to allow parents to opt-out their kids from wearing masks at school.

A Memphis judge extended a temporary block on that order today, meaning face coverings will remain in the classroom until at least the end of the month.

This comes as the Shelby County Health Department’s health directive requiring masks in schools expires September 30th.

“I think we all have the same goal. That is, we want to return back to normal life,” Germantown Municipal School District Parent Ying Gao said.

Ying Gao is a parent of an 8-year-old at Germantown Municipal Schools.

She says she’s pleased with the Judge’s ruling Friday that blocks Governor Bill Lee’s executive order that allows parents to opt their children out of wearing masks in school.

“I don’t want to wear a mask because it’s not comfortable, but it’s only thing is that is, how to reduce the speed of the variant in and flatten the curve,” Gao said.

The ruling comes after a federal lawsuit filed by three families who say their children are more susceptible to contracting severe illness from COVID-19.

The lawsuit claims the governor’s order violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

According to court documents Judge Sheryl Lipman wrote in part:

“The public interest certainly recognizes the rights of parents, but a universal masking requirement to protect students’ health does not significantly impact their ability to direct their education any more than would a uniform policy or requiring that students receive certain vaccinations before attending school.”

When asked about the judge’s ruling Friday, Governor Lee said this:

“I can’t comment on pending litigation, but I think that what we have tried to do is recognize the value of the parents’ role which is the highest value and deciding what’s best for school but recognizing the ability for a school district to make decisions that think are in the best interest of their student’s community.”

Meanwhile Gao hopes leaders will continue to put student’s safety first.

“So, we can’t risk our kids’ lives. If we can only use a layer of protection, rather to put them into ICU where it led them to handle these complications for the rest of their lives. This is not fair for the young children who still want to see the rising of the sun,” Gao said.

A spokesperson for the Health Department said late this afternoon a new directive would be issued before September 30 when the current health directive expires, but did not signal whether a renewed mask mandate would be a part of that order.

The preliminary injunction filed today will remain in effect until a final order is issued or until the current mask mandate expires.

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