The opposition to masks has been particularly crushing for parents like Ms. Hart, who see personal education as a lifeline for their children with disabilities. These students were among the most disadvantaged during the pandemic, but they are also sometimes more likely to become seriously ill by going to school.
Tennessee is one of seven states the federal Department of Education is investigating to determine whether governors’ orders allowing families to ignore school mask mandates discriminate against students with disabilities by limiting their access to education.
While many local school boards, including Williamson County’s, have voted for universal masking, an executive order issued by Governor Bill Lee, a Republican, allows parents to send their children to school maskless, without question. Mrs. Hart’s son is in high school, data published weekly by the district shows that more than 30 percent of parents have formally opted out, a percentage generally consistent with the district.
“We’ve always known that not everyone really cares about our kids, but it’s in our face now — that it’s not worth asking your kid to wear a mask so my kid can be safe,” Ms Hart said. , who is a researcher and trained epidemiologist. “That’s the scar I’ll be carrying from the pandemic, this is playing out on my face over and over.”
Parents of special education students in two Tennessee counties covering the eastern and western parts of the state have filed a lawsuit to block the governor’s order; one lawsuit was successful. A third, covering Williamson County, had a hearing before a judge this week.
In the most recent complaint, three attorneys argued that the governor, the Williamson County school board and a breakaway district within the county called the Franklin Special School District are violating the rights of special education students by allowing parents to to unsubscribe children. of the mandate.
The lawsuit is filed on behalf of one student with Down syndrome and another with type 1 diabetes, but asks for protections for all “in the same situation” students. “Defendants’ actions have pitted children against children while endangering the health and safety of medically vulnerable children with disabilities,” the indictment said.