With federal investigation underway, Sen. Raumesh Akbari urges Gov. Lee to suspend mask opt-out order

Federal education officials launch civil rights inquiry into Gov. Lee’s executive action making all school mask rules optional

MEMPHIS — With a federal civil rights probe underway, Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) says Gov. Bill Lee should reverse his executive order making all public school mask rules optional.

The U.S. Dept. of Education reportedly launched a civil rights investigation against Gov. Bill Lee and four other governors who have undermined local masking rules at schools. Federal officials say executive action that in effect overturns local mask mandates amounts to discrimination against students with disabilities or health conditions.

“Gov. Bill Lee’s administration should immediately suspend its order negating local mask rules in schools until this federal investigation concludes,” says Sen. Raumesh Akbari, chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus. “All our students, including those who have underlying health conditions, deserve access to safe learning conditions.”

Gov. Lee’s executive order attacking the authority of local school boards drew swift blowback locally too.

Last week, a Memphis-based law firm Donati Law filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of two Shelby County families with children who have underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to serious cases of Covid-19. The lawsuit alleges that Lee’s executive order violates the American With Disabilities Act.

Civil rights attorney Brice Timmons told WREG:

“Governor Lee took that tool away from the schools and took that tool away from the county, and we decided we needed to get it back. These are parents that are already dealing with chemo therapy, autism and other complex issues that affect their children that are stepping forward to represent every family that issues.”

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