Federal judge rejects restraining order for Gov. Lee’s school mask opt-out order in Knox County

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FILE – In this July 1, 2020, file photo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee removes his mask as he begins a news conference in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee was one of the first states to begin reopening in late April after Lee reluctantly issued a safer-at-home order that forced businesses to close. Since then, case numbers have continued to rise in part due to more testing, but also because of an increase in community spread of the disease. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A federal court judge has denied a temporary restraining order against Gov. Bill Lee’s mask opt-out executive order requested by three parents of Knox County Schools students in a lawsuit that claimed their children are, “unable to safely attend school without increased risks of serious injury or even death, unlike their nondisabled peers.”

In Judge Ronnie Greer’s ruling, he denied the parents’ request for a temporary restraining order because, “plaintiffs have not demonstrated that they would suffer immediate and irreparable injury or loss, and their request for a temporary restraining order must be denied for this reason alone.”

The parents say their children each had disabilities and they felt that without masks it wasn’t safe to send their children to class.

Judge Greer’s ruling only temporarily applies to their request to block Gov. Lee’s executive order. Greer did however set a hearing for Wednesday, Sept. 15, for arguments on the rest of the case.

The initial suit, seeking class-action status, called for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction of Lee’s executive order No. 84, which allows Tennessee students to opt-out of school mask mandates. It also asked for an injunction to enforce a mask mandate in Knox County Schools to “enable these children to have fundamental access to the school building itself.”

The school board voted 5-4 on Sep. 1 against a mask mandate. Knox County Schools is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

In West Tennessee, specifically Shelby County, a judge granted a temporary restraining order against Lee’s executive order that allows parents to opt their children out of mask mandates issued by their schools. The judge’s ruling means the governor cannot enforce executive order No. 84 in Shelby County. That temporary restraining order will remain in effect until Sept. 17.

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