Hearing for mask mandate case against Coffee County Schools held Sept. 8

Pictured are Nico Sanfilippo and Heather Murchison, Nico’s mother, on Sept. 8.

A Williamson County verdict Monday concerning a school district mask mandate will likely set a precedent concerning a local lawsuit challenging the since-repealed Coffee County Schools’ mandate.

According to early reports of the case, the judge is said to have ruled against the school board.

This verdict will likely help local parent, Heather Murchison,  and her son, Nico Sanfilippo, lawsuit against Director of Coffee County Schools Dr. Charles Lawson and the Coffee County Board of Education in August after her son, Nico Sanfilippo, was disciplined for not wearing a mask, according to Murchison.

“On Sept. 8 we went to court to get a temporary injunction to be able to have Nico attend school without a mask until the final hearing. The Judge ruled that without the Attorney General being brought into the case she could not rule whether it was constitutional or not. So she denied the temporary injunction stating Mayor Cordell wrote a letter giving power to Dr. Lawson to mandate masks,” Murchison said Monday after hearing the Williamson County ruling.

“We are very confident that we will win this case. If they want to mandate masks they need to do it legally. We are not stopping and Mayor Cordell has some questions to answer. I had a personal conversation with him and he reiterated… that he had no authority to mandate masks,” Murchison said.

She also questioned the timeline of a letter granting the authority to the schools. 

“How did the authority magically appear from (Cordell) to Dr. Lawson and on this professionally done letter with the fancy seal and all the big words, why did you leave off the date?  The voters will gladly be awaiting your answers, sir,” she said.

Coffee County Board of Education passes a mask mandate on Aug. 10, 2020. The action was later rescinded the mandate on April 27 at an emergency call board meeting. 

The Williamson County suit was by Tennessee Stands. The court ruled that Tennessee Stands didn’t have standing, yet it did recognize that the General Assembly Govern School Boards. The court held that that school board lacked the continued authority to mandate masks.

This is a breaking story. Comments from the Cordell and the Board of Education could not be obtained by press time. 


John has been with the Manchester Times since May 2011. He covers Lifestyles in addition to handling education reporting and general news assignments.John has won Tennessee Press Association awards for Best News Photo and placed in numerous other categories. John is a 1994 graduate of Tullahoma High School, a graduate of Motlow State Community College and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Middle Tennessee State University. He lives in Tullahoma, and enjoys the outdoors with his wife, Mitsy, and his 17-month-old, Sean.

Staff Writer

Download the free Manchester Times mobile app at the app store. John has won Tennessee Press Association awards for Best News Photo and placed in numerous other categories.

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