MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s executive order to allow parents the chance to opt out of any school mask mandate did not sit well with some, including the Shelby County Commissioners Black Caucus. On Tuesday, the group threw its support behind SCS’s decision to continue requiring masks in spite of despite the state’s position.
“What we want to do is be proactive in order that we can maintain safety in our schools,” said Shelby County Commissioner Willie Brooks.
The news conference came less than 24 hours after Lee issued the directive.
“I’m signing an executive order that allows parents to opt their children out of a school mask mandate,” he said during that news conference.
This goes against what Shelby County Schools put in place back in July, that students and staff – regardless of vaccination status – must mask up. This means the states highest office is essentially facing off with SCS, the states largest school district.
Taking off his political hat, Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner said he’s a parent first.
“Nerve wrecking,” he said. “I have children in high school, middle school and elementary school.”
The county leaders said this is a life or death matter.
“We just heard this morning a young lady had passed. She passed because a student that had the virus, and the teacher got the virus from the student and the teacher died,” said Turner.
The commissioners said they especially took issue when the Governor said Covid hospitalizations were an “adult problem.”
“I would unfortunately tell the Governor, go to LeBonheur, where the cases have increased 100% with the number of children that are having beds there,” said Mickell Lowery. “Unfortunately politics is playing into this decision.”
Chairperson Tami Sawyer and the other commissioners did not mince words, calling the order “tone deaf” and “dangerous.”
Commissioner Reginald Milton added that this virus does not discriminate.
“For anyone to say that this is not an epidemic that affects everyone, is mistaken or naïve,” he said.
The commissioners said they respect the governor’s office, but this is an executive order they will continue fighting.
Commissioner Reginald Milton summed things up, saying no one has the right to play games, and politics, with the lives of children.
SCS Superintendent Joris Ray saying mask must still be worn, as the county reviews the legalities of the Governor’s order.