Tennessee lawmakers react to calls for special session on mask mandates

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 4:55 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As dozens of Tennessee lawmakers call for a special session more reactions for and against the push to do away with mask mandates in schools are coming to the forefront.

Masks are required in all public schools in Shelby County. The decision is dividing parents but now it’s also dividing politicians across Tennessee and here in Memphis.

Earlier this week House Speaker Cameron Sexton and 70 other lawmakers signed a letter to Governor Bill Lee calling for a special session.

They say independent health boards which include the Shelby County Health Department are overreaching when they mandate masks in schools.

Representative Mark White, who represents parts of Shelby County signed the letter calling for a special session. He says he believes parents have the right to make decisions for their children.

“A lot of parents believe that their child’s sitting in a classroom for eight hours a day,” said White. “The health concerns are just as great as the COVID concerns.”

Representative London Lamar, of Memphis, who recently had a friend die from COVID-19 came out against the lawmakers calling for the special session. She spoke Thursday night on MSNBC’s “Last Word.”

“Again, we are playing with children’s lives,” said Lamar. “We are in the midst of a pandemic. A lot of these children can’t even get a vaccine because they’re not over 12 years old. So let’s stop playing political football with people’s lives and do the right thing.”

Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said she understands citizen’s rights to question the law, but right now she is well within her right to mandate the masks in schools.

Action News 5 has reached out to Lee’s office for his response to the letter. A spokesperson said he is reviewing the request.

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