Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order that gives Tennessee parents and guardians the choice of whether their children will wear masks on school buses or at school.
The issue has been a hot button for the past several months, with parents protesting the school board and health agency decisions across the state to require K-12 students to wear masks. Executive Order No. 84 allows parents to opt-out of any mandate by notifying the local education agency or personnel at the student’s school in writing.
“No one cares more about the health and well-being of a child than a parent,” Lee said in a statement on Tuesday when signing the order. “Districts will make the decision they believe are best for their schools, but parents will have the ultimate decision-making for their individual child’s health and well-being.”
He also declined to call a special session of the state legislature to debate the issue, which Republicans had reportedly called for.
Currently, the most important tool to fighting COVID-19 transmission is a vaccine, Lee noted, and he encouraged all citizens of the state to consider being vaccinated. But similar to the mask issue, he said the government won’t mandate vaccines.
While removing the ability of school boards to require masks in classrooms and on school buses, he commended them for keeping their schools open over the past year and committing to doing so during the new school year.
School Transportation News emailed Lee’s office Monday but had yet to receive a response at this report to a question about the order contradicting an ongoing federal directive issued earlier this summer by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requiring mask-wearing on all school buses and on public transit.
Related: Florida School District Bucks Governor’s Ban on Mask Mandate
Related: Masking on School Buses: The Uncertainty Continues
Related: CDC Recommends Masking Indoors to Reduce Spike in New COVID-19 Cases