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Tennessee teen talking about grandma who died of COVID-19 heckled by adults at school board meeting

Grady Knox was telling a personal story about his grandmother's death to argue for mask mandates when adults in the crowd told him to "shut up" and laughed.

A Tennessee teenager who was mocked by adults as he defended masks by explaining his grandmother died of Covid-19 called the moment “complete insanity.”

Grady Knox, a junior at Central Magnet School, was mocked and shouted down while speaking at a Rutherford County School Board meeting Tuesday night. A clip of the moment made the rounds of social media, showing adults telling the teenage boy to “shut up” as he gave a personal story to relay his views in favor of mask mandates.

Knox told the board that he was worried about being infected at school and bringing the coronavirus home to his grandparents.

“They’re higher risk than me, so I don’t want to give them Covid,” Knox said. “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.”

A man in the background could be heard telling Knox to “shut up,” and a woman in the background appeared to snicker at him, according to video of the moment.

Knox told NBC affiliate WSMV that he couldn’t believe the incident and that it was “complete insanity.”

“If they laugh at me about a personal story about my grandmother, that's just disrespectful I feel,” Knox said. “I was shaken a little bit.”

He added that he hopes those who view the video understand that the people of Rutherford County are not defined by the adults who heckled him.

Grady Knox speaks about his experience at a recent Rutherford County Board of Education meeting
Grady Knox speaks about his experience at a recent Rutherford County Board of Education meetingWSMV

“As long as I can get my message across, I don't really think it matters what the crowd thinks of me,” Knox said. “Overall, they're not the ones making the decisions for the school.”

The school board addressed the issue during a meeting Thursday night by Bill Spurlock, the county’s director of schools.

“It was pretty devastating what happened to that young man at this meeting,” Spurlock. “It’s been all over the news, and I really regret that the young man was treated the way he was. We owe him an apology.”

A temporary mask mandate that would begin on Sept. 13 and continue until Oct. 14 was passed by the board in a Thursday night vote. The approved motion included an ability to terminate the mandate if the county's positivity rate fell below 10 percent for three consecutive weeks.

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