Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s New Executive Order Grants Students the Right to Opt Out of COVID-19 Mask Mandate


Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on Monday issued an executive order that grants parents the right to opt their children out of a school’s COVID-19 mask mandate if a school board or a health board enacts one over a district.

Tennessee Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) had requested that Lee convene a special session of the state’s General Assembly to address school districts who impose mask mandates upon students. Lee said Monday he would not call for such a session.

“I have signed an EO that allows parents to opt their children out of a school mask mandate if either a school board or health board enacts one over a district,” Lee said on his Facebook page.

“Districts will make the decisions they believe are best for their schools, but parents are THE authority and will be the ultimate decision-makers for their individual child’s health and well-being.”

Young girl wearing a mask and reading a book in schoolLee’s executive order says that a student’s parent or guardian has the right to opt out of any order or requirement for a student in kindergarten through the 12th-grade to wear a face covering at school, on a school bus, or at school functions. To do so they must notify staff members at their local education agency or their student’s school — and in writing.

“Any law, order, rule, regulation that would otherwise limit the enforceability of this order is hereby suspended,” according to Lee’s order.

Sexton responded to Lee’s order Monday in an emailed statement.

“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,” Sexton said.

“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.”

Members of the Williamson County School Board voted last week to mandate COVID-19 masks whether they — or their parents — like it or not. The vote was seven to three, and it applied only to elementary school students and staff. Parents in Williamson County who insist they — and only they — have the right to force a COVID-19 mask on their children left the meeting angry.

Clay Travis, of Outkick the Coverage and also The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, spoke during the public portion of last week’s meeting. He said two of his children attend Williamson County schools.

“We teach our kids that facts matter. That is why they go to school. The facts are these. Masks don’t work. There isn’t a single scientific data that has ever proven that masks work. Also, let’s talk about risk analysis. I feel bad for all of these people walking around in masks and engaging in cosmetic theater thinking that they are making a difference against COVID. They aren’t,” Travis said.

“Here is the truth. Our kids, under 25-years-old, there is a one in a million chance that they are going to die of COVID. They are more likely to be struck by lightning. They are more likely to die of the seasonal flu. Have any of you ever mandated masks for the seasonal flu? Well, shame on you because every kid in Williamson County schools has been under more danger from the seasonal flu every year than they are for COVID. I would tell every parent here don’t let your kids wear masks.”

Members of the Metro Nashville Public School (MNPS) Board recently enacted a mask mandate of their own.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]




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16 Thoughts to “Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s New Executive Order Grants Students the Right to Opt Out of COVID-19 Mask Mandate”

  1. […] executive order says that a student’s parent or guardian has the right to opt out of any order or requirement for a […]

  2. Sandra A Brunner

    While I am glad that parents can finally send their kids to school without a mask, the way it was accomplished by Gov. Lee, is as per his usual now, NOT legal per the TN Constitution. We can only hope someone, somewhere, will stand against his tyranny and defeat him in 2022, as well as many of the Legislature.

    Also, thanks to the other RN who offered a breath of fresh air in this chaos, stating that there are no scientific studies that show masks work. He is absolutely correct. (My husband and I have both been RNs for 40 years). I am utterly ashamed of the medical community, that I’ve known for so long now, about their total silence concerning this stupidity! There are sane medical professionals out here, but they are either censored or are afraid of losing their jobs, like so many others. We will be making some hard choices for liberty.

  3. Evelyn Rodgers

    Well, maybe Governor Lee could have done more but as a grandparent of kids in Catholic schools I am grateful for what Lee did. Metro schools in Nashville still hold the poor kids hostage.


  4. Justin O Smith

    I suppose it’s a good thing Gov Lee did by way of executive order, just to clarify matters and ensure students could live normal lives. I just have a problem with the phrase suggesting he “granted them the right”.

    They already had that right to live normally without arbitrary restrictions and restraints from people and entities who have ABSOLUTELY ZERO RIGHT To “Mandate” a Damn Thing. All the students and parents really need do is to stand up before school boards and principles and say “NO .. Hell No … We are not complying with any such illegal order” and then stand firm behind that decision, even if it means keeping children home, home schooling or sending children to private schools that are also refusing to comply with this IDIOCY.

    Resist. Reject, And Refuse to Comply. ~ Justin O Smith, one damned angry Free Born American

  5. Bill

    The covid threat is coming through the vaccine. There are less expensive as well as non mutative measures to fight the covid, yet the CDC and big pharma lobbyists deny and even punish pharmacies for even allowing this info to get out. It’s been proven that the vaccine for the variant is a spreader while the un vaccinated are not. There again, this is a biological weapon created by china and propagandize by the weak minded socialists and their media. Their “empathy” for lives is the biggest hypocrisy known to man, so for all the naive sheeple in the world who believe everything the government tells you, enjoy the koolaid they’re serving you.

  6. 83ragtop50

    Lee gets it wrong AGAIN! The EO should flatly state that mask cannot be mandated in elementary and secondary schools nor in colleges and universities. The student ALWAYS has the option to mask up. But now a parent has to take action to “opt-out”. Well, Lee has opted out way too much for me.

  7. william delzell

    Governor: you underestimate the threat that Covid still poses to our children. If you are serious about family values and our children’s welfare, you won’t allow their parents to expose them to harm’s way. That is like allowing your children to play with a loaded revolver or to jay-walk a street without adult supervision. Shame on you, Lee!

  8. It does not go far enough. My son starts UT Knoxville this week. I have informed the Chancellor there, ‘that my son is going to show up in class without a mask. If he is in anyway shape or form disciplined for such, we are going to court.’ The Idiocracy needs to stop. Mask have never been shown to stop respiratory aerosolized virus. But they have been shown to harbor bacteria. The state of emergency needs to be lifted. There is no state of emergency. The simple fact of the matter is the baby boomer generation, one of the largest segment of our population, is getting older and passing. Understandably, many have called them the “Me generation.” I have news for them, it has not always been about them alone. Should we require everyone to wear diapers? Virus can escape flatulence.

  9. Mark Knofler

    Wow, the stark difference between weak Lee and Desantis. Lee continues to show he has no backbone. Leaving us vulnerable for a Dem to come in and foul the state up. #VotetheBumsOut!

    1. William

      Yes, I am afraid he is weak. What we need now are strong governors like Desantis who can protect us from the federal menace. It is the same principle used by the founders to resist tyranny from the King. They relied upon authorities closer to the people.

  10. LM

    It’s about time. Now issue one for the rest of us.

  11. CMinTN

    They left out colleges. Also Lee doesn’t want a special session probably because he fears having his wings clipped by the legislature.

    1. Horatio Bunce

      More like the “half measures” legislature is terrified of having to do it. They just can’t let go of the power. Lee didn’t even address all the items in Sexton’s letter. The people need to know what the backroom deal was here.

      Private businesses are enacting all of these abuses that Lee says he will push back on if the federal government “mandates” it. He can do something about Tennessee if he is going to continue to wield executive order power. Why keep making children the human shields? Using them to leverage school choice/vouchers? Don’t we all have the same right to breathe and ignore “health policies” made by non-medical, non-governmental entities? Our weak legislature is doing nothing for anyone that isn’t a K12 public school student. There are 5 million of us.

      1. Avi Poser

        Lee has once again demonstrated how uncaring he is. He prefers to pander to the electorate instead of being the champion of the people he serves. He has made little effort to help timely distributed Covid and TANF earmarked funds to the underserved they were designed for … and now is jeopardizing the health of children and teachers. The Gov. makes decisions that he believes are politically expedient … instead of making decisions based on the needs of those he serves. He currently stands just a step behind Abbott and DeSantis as the worst governor in the land.

        1. Tom Negri

          Absolutely Correct Mr. Avi!