CLEARING UP REP. GRIFFEY’S ANTI-MASK MANDATE LETTER TO SCHOOL BOARDS

Even as Tennessee COVID-19 hospitalizations have quadrupled in just 24 days (since July 4th), this past week Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) – one of the generally more extreme Republicans in the Tennessee state legislature (which is saying a lot) – circulated a letter to hundreds of school board members which gave the distinct impression that a board deciding to impose a mask mandate on their school districts would be against the law.

In the letter Griffey stops short of explicitly saying “Mask Mandates are illegal”, but the letter is being pushed by radical right-wing shit-stirrers Tennessee Stands, who recently sued Williamson County for their mandate (the case was dismissed on standing grounds), and is clearly intended to give the impression that they are illegal.

Griffey’s letter points to the judge in the Williamson County case, who said he was “unconvinced” the county’s board of education has the authority to enact or enforce such rules, but the judge did NOT explicitly say mask mandates are illegal.

We reached out to Rep. Griffey to clarify if the intent of his letter was to tell school board members such mandates are, in fact, illegal. Below was our exchange, word for word.

 

HOLLER: Just to be clear – is your letter saying school districts are not allowed to mandate masks?

GRIFFEY: I believe the decision in the case cited (although decided on standing grounds) appears to say that School districts do not have the Statutory authority to require masks.  Imposing masks without statutory authority could subject school districts to lawsuits.  They should carefully consult with their attorneys before deciding to impose masks.

HOLLER: Do you disagree with Lee Ann Thompson’s (Williamson School Board lawyer) reading of what the judge said? That he “made no definitive conclusions about the board’s authority to require masks”?

GRIFFEY: Here’s a quote from the Chancellor’s Order,

The Court is not convinced, as a matter of law, that WCBOE acted within its statutory authority at the time it promulgated its face-covering requirements. Further, the policy decisions promulgated by Mayor [Rogers] Anderson and Governor [Bill] Lee in February 2021 and April 2021 are inconsistent with WCBOE’s continued enforcement of face-covering requirements. With respect to WCBOE’s authority to issue a face-covering requirement, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment is alternatively DENIED. The Court cannot find, as a matter of law, Defendants have acted within the authority given to them by the legislature when enacting face-covering requirements. (emphasis added)

So, what do you think?

HOLLER: I asked you first! But to play along, I guess my reading of it would be that the court was “not convinced” and “cannot find” —  but is not actively saying it DID find the board’s mandate WAS illegal. So the judge seems to be dancing around the edge of the issue without coming to a conclusion.

It did seem though that your letter implied to school board members in TN that the judge in the Willliamson case came to a clear conclusion that mask mandates are illegal. So again I ask – is that your reading of it? And was the goal of the letter to imply that to the board members? 

GRIFFEY: I am attaching the final version of the letter on masks in school. Please refer to page 2, next to last paragraph. As I understand, Governor Lee rescinded much of the authority to impose health and safety measures that were also extended to County Mayors and local school boards derived from his emergency powers.  Without specific statutory authority, or emergency authority derived from the Governor, I would submit (and I believe Judge Binkley concluded) school boards do not have inherent authority to require masks. The General Assembly generally proscribed any government entity from mandating vaccines. See, HB 13. In light of the above, should a school board/district attempt to impose masks mandates, it is my assessment and those that signed the letter, that said school boards and districts may be opening themselves to litigation and potentially be found to be in violation of state law. If there are arguments to the contrary, please forward them to my attention.  I would be interested in reviewing their arguments/positions.

 

So essentially, although a school board member could understandably read Griffey’s letter to be telling them a judge had decided mask mandates are illegal, what Griffey is saying here is he intended it as a warning to school boards that they could be sued – not that they would necessarily lose – which school board members should already know, since anyone can be sued for anything in America, at any time.

Hopefully this is clarifying for some. Feel free to holler at your local board with the link to this article to help make the distinction.

Wearing a Mask Doesn’t Make You Less Free

“My freedom is not involved in a mask. My freedom is having the opportunity to survive in America like everybody else.” Rep. Shaw lambasts the Tennessee GOP and Governor Bill Lee for their lack of leadership on #COVID19 which has landed TN in both an economic crisis and a healthcare catastrophe.

 

#DemConvention with State Senator Raumesh Akbari

State Senator Raumesh Akbari chats with Wade Munday about the Democratic National Convention happening this week. Senator Akbari will be speaking at the Convention as a Rising Star of the party, you won’t want to miss it! Watch the Convention here.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you like to listen.

OP-ED: ‘TIL DEATH DO US PART – Being a Teacher in 2020

‘TIL DEATH DO US PART

Being a Teacher in 2020

By Tiffany Crow

A Shelby County Schools teacher, parent, and a COVID survivor.

She wrote this letter to share her experience.

As schools across the nation prepare for the upcoming school year (whether it be in person, hybrid, or completely virtual) teachers and families are writhing in agony with a sense of impending doom. One minute, we hear from superintendents and elected officials that we will be following data and “science” in efforts to plan for the upcoming year, and the next, we are being threatened with reduced funding and told that we will be going back to school buildings, in person, regardless of climbing case numbers, increasing death rates, and individuals being left with lifelong residual health issues from a virus that we still know so little about.

The decision facing parents is certainly a difficult one, but I must ask you… What about the TEACHERS?

What about the teachers who have historically spent all of their own extra time and money to make up for deficits in funding and staffing capacity?

What about the teacher who has cancer, and will now be asked to enter into the world’s largest experimental petri-dish of infection?

What about the teacher who has a child at home awaiting an organ transplant, in a one income household?

What about all of the teachers who will get sick and experience lifelong health complications, financial ruin due to excessive absence, or death?

Have we really convinced ourselves that these people don’t matter?

What about teachers like myself, a Covid-19 “survivor?”

Did I survive Covid-19? Yes, I did survive, but I, a previously healthy 27 year old, am now faced with what could be lifelong and possibly debilitating health issues. I have been “well” for quite some time now, yet I am not “well.” Plagued with daily fatigue, muscle weakness, rashes, heart rate fluctuations, chronic head and neck pain, insomnia, PTSD, digestive issues, and cognitive/memory issues. I am still unsure just how extensive or lasting these issues will be, but now that I am two months out from having a “mild” case of Covid-19, I am STILL facing these health complications. I’ve read more about life insurance in the past two months than I ever have, which is something I never thought I would be doing at age 27.

But it’s not just me. Teachers across the nation are preparing for the worst. We are finalizing wills, upping our disability insurance, and maxing out on life insurance benefits. Those of us who don’t already have life insurance are trying to find more information on which policy is the best option for them. Many teachers are already purchasing PPE, cleaning products, plexiglass dividers, and other band-aid solutions to the astronomical catastrophe that awaits upon school re-entry. Of course, Covid-19 has made significant impacts on the way we used to live. Teachers are now having to purchase protective equipment to keep themselves, and the children, safe. Education is such an important sector though, so many teachers do understand that they are essential workers. More people are even looking to become teachers after this pandemic. People are contacting resume writers, such as those at https://www.arcresumes.com/local/michigan/, to help them create an engaging resume to increase their chances of getting hired.

Is virtual instruction anyone’s first choice, during normal circumstances? Most of us would say “NO!” I, too, believe there is no replacement for in person schooling, but I disagree with people who say virtual instruction cannot be valuable. I taught virtual summer school, and found it to be quite similar in strength and weakness to in person schooling. The advantages were great, however. My students were able to become true 21st century learners, and I was able to become a true 21st century teacher. I learned valuable tools that will work with virtual instruction, but will also be highly effective and enriching when we do return to “normal.” I was able to build community with students and parents, and my students were able to develop a sense of intrinsic motivation that I had not seen at large during the regular school year.

What began as a stressful virtual experience, ended with both student and teacher growth. I urge people to understand that planned virtual instruction is completely different from the patchwork crisis schooling that was offered last spring.

While I understand the need for schools to be open for working families, I respectfully ask that you remember that schools were never meant to serve as free childcare. Teachers are not trained or educated to serve as babysitters. We are also not trained or educated to serve as healthcare professionals or nurses. The bulk of our training and coursework centers around providing a service.

Although teachers and schools, for decades, have offered a variety of services outside of the realm of the service we actually offer (education), we have finally met our match with the coronavirus pandemic. This is a problem that may be beyond our efforts to “fix,” as teachers have done for so long. I certainly do not have the answers to solve the ills of a capitalist-obsessed society, but I want to be clear that the service we provide CAN and SHOULD be offered remotely until it is safe to physically enter school buildings.

The current state of our existence is filled with unrest, anxiety, sadness, and pain. It’s honestly not surprising to me that, according to this article looking at the target market of hemp products, Millenials like myself are spending more money on CBD solutions to help us manage our mental health during these uncertain times. Like the rest of the world, I wish that we could press a magic button and return to “normal,” but the reality is that we can’t, not for some time, anyway. What and who are we willing to risk in an effort to re-enter schools in person? How many deaths are acceptable? How many people, like me, who will live with health issues for the foreseeable future is acceptable? Does your fear of an educational setback outweigh my fear for my life?

For once, teachers are voicing hesitation, frustration, and fear, instead of just coming up with a self-sacrificing solution to the problem, and society is appalled. For once, we are begging to be able to put our own family and health first, and the backlash has been intense. Our passion is being weaponized, we are being accused of not caring about children, or not being flexible enough, or even being lazy and unwilling to work. How soon we forget the “backbone” of our society, along with all of the good work we have done. Teachers are strong, resilient, and creative, but this is one situation I don’t think we can “Donors Choose” our way out of.

INTERVIEW: JERRI GREEN – District 83 TN House Candidate

Jerri Green is an attorney and a mother of 3 running for a House seat in TN-83, which is considered by many to be “the most flippable seat in Tennessee”, currently held by Rep. Mark White – who said he wouldn’t support vouchers, then did. Among other things.

“Many wonder how I can run with 3 kids… my answer is: How can I not?”

Support Jerri’s campaign: www.JerriGreen.com

CLIP:

FULL VIDEO HERE.

PODCAST ON ITUNES.

Rep. Mark White, Who Ripped Lee’s Charter Nominee for OUTING KIDS, Did the SAME To His Opponent

House Education Committee chair Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) is among the Republicans who have spoken out against Mary Pierce, one of the nine people Governor Bill Lee nominated for his new charter school board commission, because she used the children of Reps Mike Stewart & Bo Mitchell against them – naming the schools their children go to in an attempt to discount their opposition to Governor Bill Lee’s public school-harming SCHOOL VOUCHERS.

Problem is, Rep. White once did the VERY SAME THING to his opponent Jerri Green, currently running against him in HD-83.

Governor Bill Lee has nominated 9 people to be members of a new state charter school commission that has the power to overrule local school boards and ram charter schools down the throats of rural communities that may not want them for fear that they will drain resources from already severely underfunded public schools, which is what has happened in California and many places like it.

Tennessee has an “F” in school funding under this Republican supermajority, so the fears of rural school boards would be understandable, but the commission is on the verge of becoming a reality anyway thanks to Governor Lee and his Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn.

2 of Lee’s charter commission nominees, Alan Levine and Mary Pierce have met resistance from opponents.

The pushback to Levine came from Rep. Gloria Johnson, who rightly pointed out that Alan Levine was the mouthpiece for the company HMA, lying on 60 Minutes before they were forced to pay $260 MILLION IN FINES FOR MEDICARE FRAUD, had filed bogus charges against protestors in Kingsport who protested his company for over 200 days, and is the CEO of Ballad Health, which was exposed in the NY Times for SUING THOUSANDS OF PATIENTS WHO COULDN’T AFFORD TO PAY THEIR BILLS.

What a guy.

The resistance to Mary Pierce on the other hand came from Democrats and Republicans alike who took exception to her dragging the children of Reps Mitchell & Stewart into the conversation about school vouchers, going so far as to naming the schools their kids attend.

Rep. Mark White, the chair of the Education Committee, had this to say:

“You should never talk about someone else’s children.”

One problem — White did the EXACT same thing to Jerri Green, his opponent in HD-83, calling out where her children go to school to discount her opposition to Lee’s public school harming school vouchers program, which have been the source of much controversy due to the “bribes and threats” used by Lee to get them passed – including a military promotion – and used a $4 Million slush fund that seems to have appeared to grease the skids, and a problematic “sketchy” rollout around an overly expensive no-bid contract that “robbed” from teacher bonus pay  which has even Republican leaders regretting their vote.

Here’s White outing Green’s kids EXACLY the same way Pierce did, in the Daily Memphian:

Hypocrisy much, Rep. White?

It’s worth noting that the school White mentions IS a public school – not a magnet or private school – it just has a special contract with the University of Memphis to help train teachers.

“It was our neighborhood school,” says Green.

If you feel like letting White know how you feel about his blatant hypocrisy, holler at him HERE.

And to learn more about Green’s campaign to unseat him, find more info HERE.

 

Manny Sethi’s Cast of Characters

On Thursday, Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Dr. Manny Sethi released a list of 174 “grassroots” activists supporting his campaign. Spoiler alert: We’re betting his opponent, former Trump ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, didn’t lose any sleep last night.

For instance, the most prominent official on Sethi’s list is State Rep. Bruce Griffey (District 75, Paris) and his wife, Rebecca. The Griffeys recently made statewide news for breaking state Republican Party bylaws in an attempt to intimidate a chancery court judge and ensure Rebecca Griffey’s appointment to the bench. The judge submitted her resignation to Governor Bill Lee after nine days, citing intimidation by the Griffeys.

Rep. Bruce Griffey and his wife, Rebecca, with disgraced former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada.

Elected officials also include State Rep. Kelly Keisling (District 38, Byrdstown.) In 2012, Keisling used his official state email address to share the rumor with constituents that then-President Barack Obama was planning to stage a fake assassination attempt in order to stop the 2012 election.

In a press release,  Forrest Barnwell-Hagemeyer, Sethi’s campaign manager, said, “It’s clear that Dr. Manny is the choice of Tennessee conservatives.”

In addition to the Griffeys and Keisling, those conservatives include:

  • State Rep. Dan Howell, (D22-Cleveland,) whose legislative accomplishments have included voting for Governor Lee’s education voucher scheme, voting to authorize adoption agencies to deny adoption to parents who don’t comply with the agency’s religious beliefs, and voting to allow Gov. Lee to submit a waiver of Medicaid in favor of block grants to “cover” healthcare.
  • Former (Nashville) Metro Council Member Duane Dominy, currently a plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging Metro violated its own laws in the pending deal to place a Major League Soccer stadium at Fairgrounds Nashville.
  • Former Metro Council Member and current TNGOP Executive Committee Member Robert Duvall, who supported the legalization of gun carry in Metro Parks during his time on the council.
  • Dr. Ming Wang of Nashville, lasik eye surgeon.
  • Rick Williams, Nashville, former 5th Congressional District chair of 2016 Trump for President campaign.
  • Helen “Tootie” Haskins, longtime Tennessee legislative aide.
  • Fred Decosimo, Chattanooga, board member of the Beacon Center of Tennessee and treasurer of Lee’s gubernatorial campaign.
  • Marshall County Trustee Scottie Poarch, who in 2017 was nominated by Congressman Scott DesJarlais as the 4th Congressional District’s Statesman of the Year.
  • Dr. Omar Hamada, former chair of the Williamson County Republican Party.
  • Cyndi Miller, state GOP Executive Committee member (D23-Williamson County), who has advocated for the sale of the public Williamson County Medical Center.

For a full list of Sethi’s grassroots cast of characters, go to the Tennessee Journal.

REP. BYRD’S SON RESIGNS FOR “INAPPROPRIATE COMMUNICATION” WITH STUDENT?

We couldn’t make this up even if we tried: JD Byrd, son of Rep. David Byrd – who has apologized on tape to 1 of 3 women who say he sexually molested them in high school – has just resigned as coach of Jackson Christian boys basketball team, and it seems it was for “inappropriate communication with a student”, according to an email that went out from the principal’s office. (SEE BELOW)

Apple, meet tree.

We’ve left word for the athletic director.

The school president is away on a mission trip.

More on this story as it develops….

 

Rep. Deberry Questions Need For Anti-Discrimination Commission, Calls Minority & Human Rights “murky”

This week at a budget meeting in the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee, Rep. John Deberry Jr (D-Memphis) questioned the need for the Tennessee Human Rights Commission which was established to uphold the rights of Tennessee’s minority and disability communities.

Read more

INTERVIEW: TN-32 State Senate Candidate Eric Coleman

TN-32 State Senate candidate Eric Coleman talks to former TN-7 congressional candidate Justin Kanew on Facebook live. Here’s the full interview.

In the Highlights below Coleman weighs in on:

Medicaid Expansion (“Flubbed”)
The Community Oversight Board (“No one should be above the law”)
Medical Marijuana (“Absolutely”)
School Vouchers (“Fail”)