His story is poignant and sad, and his concerns are widely held — but when Tennessee teenager Grady Knox stood up at a county school board meeting to explain why he wants masks in schools, adults at the meeting mocked and heckled the high school student.
"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, who is a junior at Central Magnet School, said at Tuesday night's board meeting.
Knox wanted to speak in support of a mask mandate in schools. But he was forced to halt his speech, as his remarks could barely be heard amid the jeering and laughter from people in the audience.
"Hey guys," board chair Coy Young said as he tried to restore calm. "We're here to act professional."
Knox then finished his remarks, which, like many other statements, were met with applause. But the scene quickly made headlines.
"If they laugh at me about a personal story about my grandmother, that's just disrespectful, I feel," Knox told Nashville TV station WSMV. "So, I was like shaken a little bit."
"It was complete insanity from my perspective," he said.
Young issued an apology to Knox at Thursday night's board meeting, saying, "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.
On Thursday, Rutherford County Schools announced that the board has adopted a "temporary, 30-day mask requirement," which will take effect on Monday. As part of that plan, the board will send a form to parents who choose to opt out of the requirement.