August 9, 2021 – WKRN by: Gerald Harris – Governor Bill Lee is stopping short of supporting a special session to ban mask mandates in schools which House Speaker Cameron Sexton is calling for. But Lee is not yet ruling out changing state law.
As more Tennessee kids are becoming infected with COVID-19, Governor Lee is not supporting mask mandates. “A parent knows best about their own individual child and what’s best for them,” Lee said. But the 50th Governor of Tennessee said state law allows districts to make their own choices. “The laws in this state are set up [where] school districts have the authority to make those decisions, those school boards are elected.”
The Republican Governor is still stopping short of calling a special session to outlaw mask requirements in schools. “I’ll be working with the legislature over the next days they’ll be a lot of conversations about that nothing’s off the table.”
But doctors in Tennessee say more needs to be done by leaders to protect Tennesseans. Including one rural Tennessee ER doctor who tweeted: “I can’t stop thinking of the 5 unvaccinated covid+ patients I saw on my shift in the rural ER last night, 2 who were teens supposed to start school today. Drove through two school zones with lights flashing on my drive home. Covid is going to get a lot worse here in TN.”
“If he were to come in now and call a special session specifically to override local governments— that would be very hypocritical and very dangerous to the health of Tennesseans at this time,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons said.
Clemmons, a Nashville Democrat, recently took his son to get vaccinated. “As soon as my child turned 12 we took him to get his first vaccination shot, and he’ll get his next one not soon enough for his dad,” Clemmons said.
Adding to the rhetoric surrounding masks is not helpful. “You hear a lot of threats and all it is is the politicization of the pandemic,” he said.
Clemmons said both sides can agree to children needing to safely be in person, in schools. “Being in class and learning in the schools is the best for our children — it’s the most equitable way to educate our children and the most effective. I’m working every day to ensure that our children can stay in the classroom.”
Children younger than 12 are currently not eligible for the Covid vaccine.
Governor Lee said that he has not had any conversation yet with Speaker Sexton about calling a special session.