A nonprofit in Knox County, Tennessee, representing the interests of students, parents, and teachers is suing the county’s board of education to fight a court-ordered mask mandate for more than 60,000 kids that a judge ruled Monday will remain in place for at least 60 days amid mediation in a separate case.

The group, Unmask Knox County Kids, is suing the Knox County Board of Education after a federal judge ordered public schools can mandate face-coverings. The policy was implemented on the heels of parents of district students successfully suing Knox County Schools and Republican Gov. Bill Lee demanding a mask mandate for safety purposes. The governor signed an executive order last August allowing parents to opt their kids out of school mask mandates.

“The school district has been ordered by a judge to enforce this mandate at the behest of four parents who feel justified in holding tens of thousands of students, teachers and administrators hostage,” said Harmeet Dhillon, whose firm Dhillon Law Group is representing Unmask Knox County Kids and other concerned parents. “This is a blatant overreach of power and needs to be rectified.”

On Monday, the judge presiding over the case brought forth by Unmask Knox County Kids ruled the families behind the suit had not demonstrated “irreparable injury, loss or damage” to qualify for relief. The judge says the group did not file the right paperwork.

But in an interview with The Daily Wire, lawyer Karin Sweigart for Dhillion Law Group said the judge made a mistake in assessing the case. She says Unmask Knox County Kids is not seeking relief, which would be in the case of a temporary restraining order (TRO) being filed. The group, rather, she says filed a motion seeking the court to reconsider its prior mask order.

“We never filed a request for a temporary restraining order,” said Sweigart. “And we did that on purpose. Our request is for the court to reconsider its order because it harms all Knox County kids. We’re trying to figure out how to correct the record.”

The mask mandate in Knox County Schools will remain until the outcome of 60-day mediation ordered by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer on Monday. Mediation will take place between the parents who sought mask mandates, in relation to the other lawsuit, and the school district. Greer issued a temporary injunction in September ordering schools to enforce the mandate in place during the 2020-2021 school year and reject Gov. Lee’s executive order.

It is the contention of Unmask Knox County Kids that more than 60,000 students should not be forced to mask up due to parents of some students favoring mandates. The lawsuit argues that parents and students should be able to make personal decisions.

“For the parents of four children to feel like they have the authority to force nearly 60,000 students in all K-12 schools across the greater Knoxville area to wear masks is an outrageous demand,” Angie Goethert of Unmask Knox County Kids said in a statement obtained by The Daily Wire. “The students, parents, teachers and educational professionals who we are representing feel that this mask mandate has had detrimental effects on learning outcomes, physical health, and mental health for students.”


The lawsuit filed by Unmask Knox County Kids cites research on masks having detrimental impacts for children with disabilities and students learning English as a second language. It also cites mental health data and how parents have described kids forced to mask having “complete meltdowns” like “crying, throwing fits, being visibly shaken and inconsolable.”

One parent, referenced as “Member 3,” in the suit, said her daughter developed trichotillomania from forced masking — a compulsive hair-pulling disorder. “In 6 months, Member 3’s daughter went from having a full head of hair to nearly completely bald, her head covered in sores from self-harm, and her spirit crushed by this horrific condition,” the lawsuit states.

Mask exemptions in the school district have not been permitted aside from students with autism, tracheostomies, or some who had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) exemption from the prior year, a parent familiar with the situation told The Daily Wire. The parent has a daughter with a developmental speech delay and has failed to acquire a district mask exemption after doctors signed them.

Gary Humble, executive director of the group Tennessee Stands that has also fought mask mandates in court, told The Daily Wire the judge in this case “should never have” forced all kids to wear masks because of the concerns of a few mandate-supporting parents.

“Both parents and the school board should have never complied with this order,” said Humble. “There are times when you look an activist judge in the face, and say, ‘no.'”

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