KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The federal court order forcing Knox County Schools to have a mask mandate will stay in place after the latest appeal.

On Monday, a three-judge panel with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request from the Knox County school board to lift Judge Ronnie Greer’s order for the district to go back to a version of last year’s school masking policy.

Judge Greer’s preliminary injunction is part of a lawsuit filed by parents of students with disabilities. The suit argues that it isn’t safe for those children to attend school if teachers, staff and other students were not wearing masks.

That lawsuit is still making its way through the courtroom. School system attorneys had argued that virtual school for those students could amount to a reasonable alternative – as defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act. However, the 6th Circuit judges were not persuaded by that argument.

Their ruling cites a lack of evidence that Knox County Schools had experienced meaningful problems in last year’s mask mandate. Also, they cited the board’s own numbers showing less than 1% of students were not following the mask rule.

Judge Greer’s order has prevented Knox County from going along with a new state law stopping public entities like schools from requiring masks. Those judges cited a similar lawsuit coming out of Shelby County Schools – acknowledging there were significant arguments on both sides of both cases.

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