Governor Slams 'Wrong Approach' on Masks, Issues Exec Order

Tennessee's Bill Lee signs executive order allowing parents to opt out of mask mandates in schools
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2021 8:03 AM CDT
Tenn. Governor: Parents Can Opt Out of School Mask Mandates
In this Jan. 19, 2021, file photo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is seen in Nashville, Tenn.   (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

Tennessee's governor calls it "frustrating" and "disheartening" that this school year is starting once more mired in talk of COVID—but he's relying on the "character" of Tennesseans to carry the state through. What Bill Lee isn't relying on: face masks in schools, signing an executive order on Monday that offers parents the ability to opt out of any face covering mandates that their local health departments or school boards may implement, reports WKRN. "Our hospitals are struggling under the weight of COVID, but those hospital beds are filled with adults," Lee said. "Requiring parents to make their children wear masks to solve an adult problem is in my view the wrong approach." The EO states that a parent or guardian of a student in grades K-12 can refuse to abide by any local mask mandate "at school, on a school bus, or at school functions," simply by putting their decision in writing and submitting it to the proper local educational agency or staff at their child's school.

Lee added that while "local decision-making is important, individual decision-making by a parent on issues regarding the health and well-being of their child is the most important." The governor has promoted mask use in the past, as well as encouraged Tennesseans to get vaccinated, though he's also stated his administration won't make anyone do so. The New York Times notes that COVID case numbers have been "steadily rising" in Tennessee since July, with Sunday's numbers bringing the highest weekly average in the state since the end of January. Per WTVF, both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended that children, as well as teachers and staff, wear masks in school, whether they've been vaccinated or not. (Read more Tennessee stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.