MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee’s governor might’ve issued an executive order saying parents can opt out of school district mask mandates, but Shelby County Schools says not so fast.
The state’s largest school district says masks are still required for everyone on its district’s campuses. Parents are weighing in about their feelings in what is quickly becoming a controversial issue.
Monday afternoon, Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order giving parents or guardians the ability to opt their child out of local health board requirements mandating masks. “No one cares more about the health and well-being of a child than a parent,” Lee said in a statement.
The announcement comes after multiple protests from parents in the state saying they should have a right to choose if their child wears a face covering.
Despite the order, Shelby County Schools announced masks on its campuses will still be required.
Parent Nichole Walls says her family has taken precautions, but she was still concerned sending her daughter back to the classroom.
“My daughter is vaccinated. She’s 16,” Walls said. “The mask mandate should be accepted in all Shelby County Schools.”
With COVID-19 cases on the rise, some are saying they wish the schools would go back to virtual learning.
“Honestly, I think the Governor’s executive order is a bit of an embarrassment, putting party politics ahead of the safety of our kids,” dad Chris Stiegemeyer said.
He explained some of the concerns facing his family, and said he hopes the district’s mandate can stick.
“I’ve got a younger child that is unable to get vaccinated, but my older child is vaccinated and she’s very concerned that she will get a breakthrough case due to people not wearing masks, and then bring it home to my younger child and my father, who we live with, and has medical issues,” Stiegemeyer said.
The Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics also came out against the governor’s order, citing the number of children currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
We reached out to the governor’s office for comment. They sent a statement saying, “We expect counties and districts to follow the law.”
We also asked to speak with someone from SCS Tuesday. A spokesperson sent us this statement saying in part:
“Board Members and Superintendent Dr. Joris M. Ray are consulting with our General Counsel to explore and review the legalities of Governor Lee’s Executive Order 84.”