Parents frustrated as WCS students continue to ignore masks

FRANKLIN, Tennessee (WTVF) – Parents of students with special needs in Williamson County say they noticed almost no difference after a recent judge’s order to limit mask exemptions.

The district is no longer honoring Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order 84, which gave students the option of not wearing masks, but parents are making it clear that more needs to be done.

Kim and Dan Hart say that without more masks in class, it makes it all the more difficult for their son Tristan to go to school.

“He’s an amazing kid who has overcome a lot over the past 18 years,” Kim said.

Tristan has Down syndrome, autism, chronic kidney disease and was only taken out of five years of open heart surgery. The diagnosis of Down syndrome alone means he’s four times more likely to end up in the hospital if he catches COVID-19. He is also ten times more likely to die from the virus.

“This puts these children at greater risk because they have smaller airways and they are generally more susceptible to viruses in the community,” Kim said.

Last week, a judge agreed that Governor Lee’s mask exemption unfairly restricted students with special needs from attending classes in person because it gave students the option of opting out of masks. The complaint was filed by two families, one of whom also had a child with Down’s syndrome.

They’ve heard the courts, but Kim says they haven’t seen the change in the classroom yet. Kim says that’s what worried her from the start. That after several weeks of exemptions, the students did not bother to put the masks back on.

“Even though there have been three judgments that declare the decree a violation of the rights of students, the real people in the schools have lost so much ground,” Kim said.

Kim knows Tristan needs school. He participates in professional training with an emphasis on how to one day live independently. They say Tristan has been vaccinated and is wearing a mask, but it doesn’t mean much if the other students don’t get the message.

“There has to be a cohesive message and people have to understand a little more that we are just people and that we are all doing our best,” Dan said.

Williamson County schools will have an updated list of mask removals this Friday. They continue to honor the medical and religious exemptions already registered. Before the governor’s mask exemption was revoked in the district, WCS had more than 13,700 mask removals. That’s 33% of the district. In the Franklin Special School District, more than 200 students have withdrawn, or about 10% of the student body.

For a full list of COVID mitigation strategies for WCS, click this link connect.

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