FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Williamson County School Board voted to require students, staff and visitors at elementary schools to wear face masks while indoors and on buses beginning August 12 through at least Tuesday, September 21 at 11:59 p.m.
The decision was made Tuesday night after a lengthy and heated special-called board meeting that dozens of parents attended.
Many doctors and parents spoke to the board about the decision they wanted to be made - some asked the board to reinstate the mandate and others are asked to keep the district's initial decision of masks being optional.
The board allowed a total of 30 people to give public comments. Each person was allowed one minute to speak.
"Actions have consequences. If you vote for this, we will come for you... in a non-violent way," said Daniel Jordan, parent and former U.S. Marine from East Tennessee. "If you own a business, we will boycott your business... in the past, you dealt with sheep now prepare yourself to deal with lions."
The board chairwoman had to ask the crowd to be quiet while people spoke several times.
There is currently not a statewide mask mandate for students as classes are underway. However, the delta variant has caused a large spike in COVID-19 cases in the mid-state, and districts are having to face the decision of whether or not to require masks.
Superintendent Jason Golden recommended to the board that students staff and visitors at the district's elementary schools be required to wear masks. Several members of the crowd immediately shouted boos and some yelled "coward."
He said over the course of the first three days of the new school year, a total of 25 elementary students have contracted COVID-19.
The board chair asked a deputy to remove a man she said was continuously being disruptive, and that's when the crowd erupted in chants. Many of them left the room while shouting at board members and many threatened lawsuits.
After multiple amendments, the board ultimately voted to require students, staff and visitors at elementary schools to wear face masks while indoors and on buses. The change will begin on August 12 and will expire Tuesday, September 21 at 11:59 p.m. At that time, board members said it is the goal to reassess the COVID-19 case count in the county and decide whether or not they should vote to issue another requirement.
Under the requirement made Tuesday night:
- Teachers who are safely distanced at least 6 feet from students can remove their masks
- Exemptions from the 2020-21 school year will be grandfathered in
- Students/staff can be exempt for medical or religious reasons
Sen. Marsha Blackburn spoke out against the decision, thanking one of the parents for taking a stand.
On Wednesday, Williamson County Schools issued the following statement:
“Our parents are passionate about their children’s education, and that’s one of the reasons for our district’s success over the years. With that said, there’s no excuse for incivility. We serve more than 40,000 students and employ more than 5,000 staff members. Our families and staff represent a wide variety of thoughts and beliefs, and it is important in our district that all families and staff have the opportunity to be represented and respected. We will continue to work toward making sure all voices are heard and that all families, staff and community members feel safe sharing their opinions.”