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A group of parents plans to protest against Hamilton County Schools mask requirements that are staying in place through the end of the school year at the school board meeting on Thursday.

The protest announcement comes on the heels of the district's announcement Monday that masks will be optional for students and staff, but not until June 1.

Lisa Willard is the parent of a high school freshman in Hamilton County. She said a lot of parents have reached out to her about not liking the mask requirement and that they want to choose whether their children wear masks.

"We as parents know our children the best," Willard told the Times Free Press on Wednesday. "We determine the medical necessity of things for our children. That's not something the school should be determining."

Hamilton County Schools announced in a Monday social media post that masks will be optional beginning June 1 for all students and staff. The last day of school is May 27, so the lifting of the ban will have no practical effect for most students this school year.

"We're finishing this school year with the mitigation strategies that have allowed us to hold in-person instruction 88% of the school year during a global pandemic," reads a statement by schools spokesperson Cody Patterson.

Although the mask requirement becomes optional in less than three weeks, Willard said the protest was inspired in part by a recent court ruling in Williamson County where the judge said he was "unconvinced" that the school district had the authority to enforce masks.

Other parents have spoken up recently regarding the mask requirement for students. A Hamilton County Schools parent, Larissa Robinson, spoke against masks at the April 15 school board meeting, and another parent, Angie Nunley, is included in the agenda for Thursday's meeting to speak on the mask requirement.

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at achaturvedi@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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