In Rutherford County, Tennessee, the issue of school mask mandates has split the community so badly that some adults were unable to remain civil when a teenager talked about his dead grandmother at a school board meeting. Grady Knox, a junior at a Murfreesboro high school, was heckled and laughed at when he told the Tuesday night meeting that his grandmother, a former teacher in the county, died from COVID last year "because someone wasn't wearing a mask," NBC News reports. In video from the meeting, a man can be heard saying, "Shut up" and women in the background with anti-mask signs can be seen smiling and snickering.
Other adults applauded after Knox finished speaking. He told the meeting that he was worried about getting infected at school and passing the virus on to his surviving grandparents. "They're higher risk than me, so I don’t want to give them COVID," he said. The teen—who remained calm while being heckled—also said students are worried about missing classes due to COVID exposure, the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal reports. After the meeting, he said he was a "little shaken" by the behavior of some audience members. "If they laugh at me about a personal story about my grandmother, that's just disrespectful, I feel," he said, per WSMV.
Knox said he hopes people won't see the hecklers as representative of Rutherford County. Earlier in the three-hour meeting, deputies had to escort two pediatricians who had spoken in favor of a mask mandate to their cars. "I really regret that the young man was treated the way he was," county director of schools Bill Spurlock said at a meeting two days later. "We owe him an apology." At that Thursday night meeting, the board voted in favor of a monthlong mask mandate starting Sept. 13. (Read more Tennessee stories.)