MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Shelby County ending its health order next Monday could impact whether students will have to mask up in schools.
Dr. Michelle Taylor, the county health department director, said schools covered under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA can still be required to enforce mask requirements.
“Regarding masking in schools…schools should take the necessary steps to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” she said. “Reasonable accommodations should be made for students with disabilities. The other thing to remember is just because we won’t have a health order doesn’t mean the ADA will go away.”
She admits last October Tennessee lawmakers stripped autonomous health departments like hers from issuing mask mandates and business restrictions.
“Unfortunately, changes in Tennessee state law have prohibited the health department from fully enforcing mask requirements and protecting all children in school. So yes, advancing public health has become more challenging but it doesn’t mean we’ve stopped doing just that,” Dr. Taylor said.
Many public schools and some private schools are bound by the ADA, but several public school districts have rejected the mask order and made them optional.
Dr. Taylor said the health department won’t be swayed from supporting parents who want the ADA enforced in their schools.
“It just means we’ve changed our tactics and encourage all parents who believe their children are in increased health risks in their schools to insists on the full enforcement of the ADA at those schools. The Shelby County Health Department will stand in full support of your efforts,” she said.
WREG reached out to the Memphis-Shelby County School district Thursday. They said “in Memphis-Shelby County Schools, we stand for safety, as it remains our top priority. At this time, there are no changes to our mask requirement.”