Shelby County students will return to class masked up Tuesday

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Students in Shelby County returning to the classroom Tuesday will be masked up, despite the executive order issued by Gov. Bill Lee, after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on the issue late Friday afternoon.

The ruling comes after Lee was sued by two greater Memphis-area families, claiming the executive order violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This order is effective until next Friday the 17th, but another hearing in the case is scheduled for this week. 

“The number of children this lawsuit impacts in Shelby County is in the tens of thousands,” attorney Brice Timmons said. “We’re talking about every kid in Shelby County who’s diabetic, every kid who has sickle cell disease, every kid who has severe asthma.”

The 18-page order issued Friday afternoon by a federal judge comes after Shelby County families sued Lee over his executive order allowing families to opt out of the mask mandates, believing it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Shelby County Schools never allowed families to opt their children out, but other municipalities did. 

Saturday, Collierville Schools sent out updated guidance on their masking policy, citing the judge’s temporary restraining order, saying that everyone on campus needs to wear a mask while indoors. 

Any student who refuses to wear a mask or face covering as directed will be sent home. The school district also said universal masking significantly reduces the likelihood students will be required to quarantine as a result of classroom contact with an infected individual. 

Large numbers of students quarantined after exposure is something school districts across the Mid-South have dealt with since school started. 

“According to one of the experts that testified there is at least one child with every single of one of these disabilities in every single classroom in Shelby County, Tennessee. So this affects a huge number of kids. This is not a small group of children we’re protecting here,” Timmons said.

He says lawsuits like this one are happening all over the country, but there are still more legal hurdles ahead.

“There is another hearing scheduled on the 9th, at which point in time we intend to put on further evidence of the widespread pattern of disabled kids who are unable to attend school because of the governor’s opt out order,” Timmons said.

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