Knox County Schools BOE sunsets mask policy; fails to pass community involvement measure

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Masks, resolution on law enforcement in schools top items on Knox Co. Board of Education meeting Wed. night

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Students in Knox County Schools will not be required to wear masks after May 26. The Knox County Board of Education voted to sunset the mask mandate during a regular meeting on Wednesday.

At the same meeting, a resolution that would have added community members to a planned discussion related to police officers in schools failed to garner enough votes. Much of the discussion was over the wording in the proposed resolution.

“The whole intent of the resolution is to get the community to the table,” said Daniel Watson, a board member representing the District 3.

The topic arose following the April 12 shooting death of Anthony Thompson Jr at Austin-East Magnet High School. The armed student was shot by a Knoxville Police officer during a confrontation in the bathroom of the school.

On May 5, Mayor Indya Kincannon announced a temporary withdrawal of Knoxville Police from Knox County Schools and pledged to revisit the memorandum of agreement between the city, the police department and the school system.

Two representatives presented a resolution during the board’s work session on May 5.

The proposed resolution requested community involvement in the discussion of future agreements between schools and law enforcement, ultimately giving community members the opportunity to help make decisions about safety and security in schools

The proposed resolution underwent changes even before tonight’s meeting. One change from the original proposal is the language. The amended resolution still requests community engagement in the MOA review process, but the word possibly has been added when talking about actually amending the MOA.

Another change is the removal of the reelection of subcommittees and task forces, instead, the board will hold a special called meeting in June and take action themselves.

Later in the meeting, the board voted to sunset the current mask policy on May 26.

Board member Rep. Kristi Kristy had proposed a substitute motion to say that the mask policy will end on May 26, and stop there.

“At some point, we have to start talking about an exit strategy,” Kristy said.

During the discussion, Rep. Virginia Babb said she was OK with ending the policy on the 26th, but not before then.

Rep. Jennifer Owen dissented in the vote.

“We voted for a sunset date and we need to have the integrity to stick by it,” Owen said.

The motion was passed 6-2-1.

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