Buuck responds to ‘mask lawsuit’ letter

Responding to a drafted letter released last week from District 6 Board of Education member Betsy Henderson and Board Chair Kristi Kristy (District 9) requesting Knox County Law Director David Buuck hire outside counsel to fight the federal mask mandate for Knox Schools, Buuck addressed their claims Monday, Feb. 14. It reads:

“I fully understand the angst you must be feeling as elected representatives of your respective school board districts. I, personally, have the same feelings as do many of your district constituents and the County as a whole, who have elected me to represent them, as well.”

However, Buuck stated, “initially, there is a misunderstanding with what you call our ‘latest plan.’ The items you set out were not recommended plans from this Office. We have said time and again that we do not make policy for Knox County Schools, nor do we have authority over its personnel. Rather, these were posited to you as potential far-reaching remedies, which could be imposed by the federal Eastern District Court. This office did not recommend the School Board institute such policies.

About the charge of “not producing one medial expert,” the letter stated, ... “although we have been preparing for an eventual motion to reconsider the injunction when supported by exposure numbers, there has not been a date set by the district court for an evidentiary hearing, and one will likely not be set until the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled on our appeal of Judge Greer’s order. The only opportunity to present evidentiary proof thus far in this case has been at the Sept. 15 hearing. At that time, there was no medical evidence that could have been presented to the court, which the court would have believed to counter the plaintiff’s proof that masking, along with other actions, lowered the transmission rate of COVID-19.

“Our own Knox County Health Department supported this proposition, and still does. And remember that Dr. Buchanan, at that time both health officer and medical director for Knox County, was also the medical director of Knox County Schools. We would have been put in the position of arguing against ... our own school system’s medical director.

“You also ask this office to hire ‘expert’ outside counsel in the pending case. The problem is that some of the best ‘expert’ counsel with regard to how the ADA is applied in an educational setting and appellate procedure are lodged in this Office. ... You further criticize our Office for not immediately moving the court to lift the mask mandate for three basic reasons: (1) declining COVID rates nationwide; (2) because other jurisdictions that previously had stringent masking requirements are beginning to relax them; and (3) because some people are saying that masks are not effective.

“You offer newspaper articles as proof that Judge Greer should reverse his mask mandate. News articles are, by definition, heresy evidence and therefore not admissible in court. Also, the Knox County Health Department and State Health Department, as experts, and currently tracking with the CDC, recommend masks in schools and support the arguments of the plaintiffs. I would also refer you to the Tennessee Department of Health website where in TDOH continues to recommend masks and state that masks reduce the spread of COVID by 80 %: https://covid19.tn.gov/prevention/. The positions of these governmental entities are admissible and would quickly be brought to the court’s attention by Plaintiff’s counsel.

“As a final note, although you are free to express your individual opinions on the campaign trial and otherwise, you have no authority to represent the KCBOE outside of what the full board has approved.

“I point out that what you request is contrary to the motion passed at the Feb. 9, 2022, meeting that ‘the law department do everything they feel is possible as quickly as they can that does not violate rules or jeopardize the case,’” the law

This office is following that direction of the Board and will continue to do so.”