Executive order allows Tennessee parents to opt children out of school mask mandates

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 3:11 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The governor of Tennessee signed an executive order Monday to allow parents to opt their child out of a local mask mandate required by a school or health board.

During a press conference, Governor Bill Lee said the most important tool to fight the pandemic is a vaccine. He encouraged Tennesseans who have not been vaccinated to consider being vaccinated.

Executive Order 84 gives parents the ultimate decision-making for their child’s health and well-being.

Lee also said he will not be calling a special session at this time.

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton called for a special session focused on school mask mandates. In a letter to the governor last week, Sexton said he wants the legislature to convene and address “misdirected and mandated responses to COVID-19 by local entities and officials.”

Sexton released the following statement related to Lee’s executive order”

“Gov. Lee’s executive order issued today is good news in affirming a parent’s right to make healthcare decisions for their children. I am hopeful this order can be extended further by curtailing the power of the six independent health departments that can still impose unlimited mandates upon our business community. I feel confident the immediate need for a special session has been averted in the interim by using executive orders. However, the House still stands ready to act if the call comes.”

Other Tennessee lawmakers are also weighing in on Executive Order 84 with mixed reactions.

Tennessee Representative Antonio Parkinson released the following statement regarding the executive order:

‘How do you say decisions on community health should be made locally and in the very same breath and sentence remove local control in regards to children wearing masks at school? Many children in Shelby County and across the state live in multigenerational households. More and more children are requiring hospitalization when contracting Covid and can easily transmit the virus to parents and other family members whom they may come in contact with. These conditions may prove debilitating or fatal for a child or their family members. I disagree with the executive order and it is irresponsible. The goal is to stop the spread of the virus in Tennessee. This executive order in no way will curb the spread of the virus. As a matter of fact, it may accelerate the spread of Covid in our state.”

Senator Brian Kelsey tweeted:

Below is a tweet from Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer.

Representative London Lamar tweeted the following and also released a statement.

“The latest Executive Order issued by Governor Bill Lee is truly frightening for Tennessee’s children, parents, teachers and school support staff. The announcement that this new order will allow all students across the state to opt out of wearing a mask is just another example of the Republican leadership in this state putting politics over people. I’m terrified that this decision could increase the rate of COVID-19 in our children, as well as increase in the risk for their families and educators who come into contact with them. All while our hospital beds fill up, elective procedures are postponed and the National Guard has to be called in to help. We need common sense leadership instead of Government overreach.”

Senator Raumesh Akbari tweeted in disagreement with the executive order.

View Executive Order 84 below.

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