Student mocked by adults at school board meeting while talking about grandmother who died of COVID-19

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RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (NewsNation Now) — A Tennessee high school student was heckled by adults while speaking about his dead grandmother at a board of education meeting on mask mandates.

Grady Knox was advocating for a mask mandate in schools during the public comment section at a Rutherford County Board of Education meeting. Knox began speaking about his grandmother who died of COVID-19 last year when the heckling began.

“This time last year, my grandmother, who was a former teacher at the Rutherford County school system died of COVID because someone wasn’t wearing a mask,” Knox said.

He then attempted to continue speaking while adults behind Knox were laughing and shaking their heads. They held signs that read, “Let our kids smile” and at one point, someone in the background can be heard screaming, “shut up!”

The heckling continued until the school board chairman stepped in.

“Hey guys, we’re here to act professional,” Coy Young called.

Grady continued after the heckling stopped, “By not wearing masks in schools, it’s irresponsible.”

The Rutherford County school board meeting on Tuesday came as the district continued an intense debate over mask mandates. Previously, the board had required masks in 2020 and then decided to make them optional in 2021.

In a 5-2 vote Thursday night, the board voted to reinstate a mask requirement for 30 days but allow parents to opt out online.

The board chairman also addressed the incident before the group voted on a mask mandate stating the community owed Knox an apology.

“I’d like for you guys to keep in mind a young man was here the other night to speak which was a student of Central Magnet. His name is Grady Knox. He was trying to tell us a story about his grandmother he lost. If you haven’t heard it already, it was pretty devastating what happened to that young man at this meeting. It’s been all over the news and I really regret the young man was treated the way he was. We owe him an apology,” Young said.

School board meetings across the country over mask mandates in classrooms have become more contentious, with physical and verbal fights breaking out.

President Joe Biden has encouraged mask wearing in school, but each state has set its own policy in terms of mandating masks or banning mask mandates all together.

NewsNation affiliate WKRN contributed to this report

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