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School mask mandate expanded in Tennessee district where parents heckled people in face coverings

Thursday's meeting in Williamson County, where board members voted to approve a mask requirement for middle and high school students, was not as chaotic as one earlier this month.

Parents opposed to their children wearing masks in school spoke out at a Tennessee school board meeting, but their complaints were futile as administrators voted to expand a mandate it already has in place.

Earlier this month, the Williamson County Board of Education approved a mask requirement for elementary students. In an 8-4 vote Thursday night at a specially called meeting, board members voted to approve the requirement to include middle and high school students.

The requirement for middle and high school students begins next week, according to The Tennessean. The mandate will remain in effect through Sept. 21.

Following an Aug. 10 meeting, angry parents gathered outside the meeting and chanted, "We will not comply."

In a video posted on social media, people screamed at a man wearing a mask as he walked toward a car. "F--- you," a woman screamed. A man wearing a black T-shirt chanted, "No more masks, no more masks. ... Child abusers. You are child abusers."

The same man in the black shirt later walked up to a person's car and yelled, "We know who you are! No more masks." A second man walked up to the car and said, "You can leave freely, but we will find you."

Because of the chaos at the Aug. 10 meeting, over 50 county deputies were posted at Thursday's meeting and around the building where it was held, according to The Tennessean. A school board member told attendees at the start of Thursday's meeting that shouting, clapping and disruptive behavior would not be allowed.

"Disruptive individuals will be asked to leave at the first occurrence of the disruption and will be escorted out by the deputy," the board member said in a livestream video.

For the most part, the crowd remained relatively calm with some people clapping as attendees addressed the board prior to their vote.

One parent told the board that she has a kindergartener in the district.

"Keeping a germ-infested cloth on their face all day is putting them at greater risk for illness," she said. "They hang them on the fence at recess, drop them on the floor, touch surfaces and fidget with them, touch their eyes, trade them with each other and who knows what else because they’re children."

Another speaker told the board they should not make choices for other people's children.

"Your job as school board members is to manage education only," the speaker said. "Parents are responsible for children’s health. Parents’ rights have been violated for however long now. You have made options available for those seeking a safe place for education. You’ve offered online education. You’ve offered the ability to wear a mask. If you mandate masks, you take away a safe place for children to learn."

One man in opposition to masks challenged the board to "go with the will of the people."

Some parents, who said they were too afraid to attend Thursday's meeting, sent in video messages supporting the mask mandate, according to The Tennessean.

"We, our community needs to do something to make this stop. It's imperative that you pass and enforce a universal mask mandate for all of our schools," one parent said. "Students are not safe. Please do your job. Stand up to the anti-mask bullies and listen to the experts."

Another parent urged board members to follow the advice of experts and to institute "a remote learning platform that was proven very successful last year to ensure continuity of learning."

Under Gov. Bill Lee's executive order, parents are allowed to opt their children out of the district's mask mandate. Out of nearly 18,000 elementary school students, 4,547 have opted out of wearing masks, according to the district.