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Lawsuit behind Knox County Schools mask mandate put on hold by federal judge

WATE Knoxville logo WATE Knoxville 3/7/2022 Melanie Vásquez Russell
Lawsuit behind Knox County Schools mask mandate put on hold by federal judge © Provided by WATE Knoxville Lawsuit behind Knox County Schools mask mandate put on hold by federal judge

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - A federal judge has put the lawsuit behind the Knox County Schools mask mandate on hold after issuing a pause for mediation on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer has issued a stay on the lawsuit that led him to issue an injunction requiring students in Knox County Schools to wear masks. Greer has ordered the parents who filed the lawsuit and the school district to enter mediation within 60 days in hopes of finding an agreement that will be accepted by the court.

The mask mandate remains in place until the outcome of the ordered mediation. Knox County Schools has been under a reinstated mask mandate due to an injunction issued by Greer in September 2021 after Knox County parents of students with disabilities filed a lawsuit.

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The new order issued Monday pauses the judicial proceedings while the parties named in the lawsuit enter into federal mediation.

The parents behind the suit recently told the judge they would accept an end to the mask requirement if the CDC found that Knox County had gone from high to medium levels of COVID-19 transmission, a milestone that the county hit last week.

Another group of parents filed a separate effort to have masks removed immediately, suing the parents behind the original lawsuit and the school system. Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and State Rep. Jason Zachary have contributed money and promotional backing to that effort.

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The order states:

“Within 60 days of this Order’s date, the parties SHALL utilize the Federal Mediation Program by attending mediation conference. E.D. Tenn. L.R. 16.4(l). Within seven days of that conference, the mediator SHALL file a mediation report, and the parties SHALL ensure that he or she does so. E.D. Tenn. L.R. 16.4 (m). This action is hereby STAYED pending the outcome of the mediation.

So ordered.

Judge Ronnie Greer

United States District Judge”

It was unknown as of Monday when the parties would agree to a mediation date. The outcome of the mediation will later be shared with the court.

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A request for comment from Knox County Schools was not immediately returned.

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