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Tennessee lawmaker requests special session over school mask mandates: ‘It is of the utmost urgency’

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 3:45 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton on Wednesday followed through with his threat asking the governor to call a special session over facemasks in schools.

In a letter to the governor, Sexton says he wants the “legislature to convene and address misdirected and mandated responses to COVID-19 by local entities and officials.”

“It is of the utmost urgency to move quickly due to the potential of significant harm to Tennesseans,” writes Sexton.

Earlier this month, the speaker threatened to call a special session if school districts began mandating masks -- something that was optional in most school districts until the Shelby County Health Department ordered universal masking.

“I mean if we need to come in to have a special session and say that school systems cannot mandate masks in kids. I’m happy to do that,” Sexton said Aug. 3. “I’m sure our members are happy to do that.”

Last week, Sexton told Action News 5 the government has no business mandating masks in schools.

“I think it’s the parent’s choice,” said Sexton. “I don’t think it lies with the general assembly. I don’t think it lies with the school board. I think it lies with the parents.”

“We believe there is a need to curtail the overreach by independent health boards and officials, confirm a parent’s right to make decisions that impact the mental and physical health of their children, provide support and direction to schools to ensure educators are properly compensated for COVID-19 leave, and protect all Tennesseans from misdirected mandates designed to limit their ability to make their own decisions,” reads Sexton’s letter to Gov. Bill Lee.

Dozens of state lawmakers signed the letter.

Last month, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended universal masking in schools. The CDC also said masks should be worn indoors in areas of high transmission regardless of vaccination status.

Last Friday, the Shelby County Health Department amended its latest health directive to require masking in schools. The order is set to expire Aug. 31 but could be extended.

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