KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Abel Ogle is a seven-year-old boy with down syndrome who attends Bonny Kate Elementary School in south Knoxville. His parents, CJ and Sarah, say he loves going to church and interacting with people, but he loves school most of all.
“He gets up every morning and cannot wait to go see his friends, and he loves his teachers,” said CJ Ogle, Able’s father.
Abel’s parents say the mask mandate that Knox County Schools put in place could keep Abel from doing what he loves.
The Ogles received a call today from the school with bad news.
“Basically stating that this new mask mandate that's being enforced, provides zero exemption for him,” said Ogle.
Under Knox County School District’s mandate, only kids with autism or a tracheotomy are exempt.
The mask mandate comes from a federal judge who ruled the Knox County Board of Education must enforce a mask mandate. The judge says he used the “Americans with Disabilities Act” as the basis for his decision.
The ruling comes after Knox County parents filed suit in federal court.
They claimed the “voluntary-mask” policy put children with weakened immune systems at risk.
The Ogles say they feel entirely left out.
“So you can imagine being very, very upset that our son is going to miss out on school. He is really unable to wear a mask. He just won't wear it. He can't work. He doesn't cognitively understand. He doesn't even know what COVID is," said Ogle.
The consequences of not wearing a mask under the school district's mandate could result in many unexcused absences.
"So for us, our opinion is that this is basically an expulsion from school based on the rules," said Ogle.
Now all the Ogles can do is wait until the federal judge decides on additional exemptions. While they wait, Abel has to miss days out of school.