Governor Bill Lee Claims ‘Our Executive Order Gives the School District Authority to Impose a Mandate, but Gives the Parent the Ability to Opt Out’


On Tuesday, Governor Bill Lee told Clay Travis and Buck Sexton on their nationally syndicated radio program, “our executive order actually gives the school district the authority to impose a mandate, but it gives the parent the ability to opt out of that if they choose it.”

“I have always been a really strong believer that parents know best what their children need. So I’m a parent. I raised four kids, got eight grandkids. No one knows their kid like the parent. No one cares about their children more than their parents, and so in the middle of all of this covid world that we’re living in, which is people,” Lee told Travis when asked about Executive Order No. 84, signed by the governor on Monday.

“There’s a lot of fear, a lot of frustration, and a lot of anger, at the end of the day I think when we think about children in schools and covid and masks and vaccinations, it ought to be left up to the parent. I’m also a believer in government that’s closest to the people is the best. So I think local decision-making is important,” Lee continued.

“So our executive order actually gives the school district the authority to impose a mandate, but it gives the parent the ability to opt out of that if they choose it,” Lee stated. (emphasis added)

The actual language of Executive Order No 84 states:

I, Bill Lee, Governor of the State of Tennessee, having declared a continuing state of emergency by Executive Order No. 83, dated August 6, 2021, and by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Tennessee Constitution and other applicable law including Tennessee Code Annotated§ 58-2-107, do hereby order that a student’s parent or guardian shall have the right to opt out of any order or requirement for a student in kindergarten through twelfth-grade to wear a face covering at school, on a school bus, or at school functions, by affirmatively notifying in writing the local education agency or personnel at the student’s school.

Buck Sexton then asked Lee about anticipated pushback from some school boards against this executive order.

“Governor Lee, it’s Buck here. So are some of the cities, localities…? Are any of them trying to take some kind of action against this? Are they fighting? Are they saying they’re going to ignore it or try to take you as governor to court? How is this being received?” Sexton asked.

“Well, you know, this just happened yesterday afternoon; so, you know, we’re kind of getting some first responses of a couple of districts that have said, you know, they’re looking at their legal options. What I hope is that those districts… We have some almost 150 districts in our state. There are two of them that have kept their schools closed the longest, have been most…frankly, have had the worst outcomes academically of the rest of our districts,” Lee responded.

“Most of the districts in this state have figured out how to navigate this forward. Actually, a couple of them had already imposed a mandate with an opt-out. I’m hopeful that these two districts that have already spoken up will actually realize, ‘Hey, this makes a lot of common sense. The rest of the districts in this state have figured out how to do it; we should too’,” Lee added.

“What would you tell parents who are in… The two districts are Nashville and Memphis… mostly city schools. What would you tell parents there who may not want their kids to wear masks but the school districts are saying, ‘Hey, we don’t care necessarily about the governor’s order; you are expected to wear a mask in this school’? How should parents respond, in your mind, in Davidson County and in Shelby County and in Nashville and in Memphis?” Clay Travis asked Lee.

“I think one of the things that’s been important to me is that parents have really put voice to this all across the country, and it’s a part of what has occurred even in Tennessee. Parents have made their voices known, and they ought to make it known in the two counties and the two the school districts that we have that are making noise about not complying with the law. I would encourage parents to make their voice known and to let them know that the law as it stands is for them to opt out if that’s what they want to do,” Lee answered.

According to the Tennessee Code, the governor is responsible for addressing the dangers presented to the state and its people by emergencies. He or she may issue executive orders, proclamations, and rules and may amend or rescind them. Such executive orders, proclamations, and rules have the force and effect of law. Tennessee Code also gives the governor the power to “suspend any law, order, rule or regulation prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business or the orders or rules or regulations of any state agency, if strict compliance with any such law, order, rule, or regulation would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency.”

You can read the full interview here.

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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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10 Thoughts to “Governor Bill Lee Claims ‘Our Executive Order Gives the School District Authority to Impose a Mandate, but Gives the Parent the Ability to Opt Out’”

  1. Jay

    School choice for all Tennesseans

  2. JudyT.

    I am glad for the opt out order, but it has to be written and turned in to the school? How is that for targeting a child? The default position should be that if you want to have your child wear a mask, have them wear it. If your child doesn’t wear one then that speaks for itself. No need for anythibg in writing.The fact that it has to be in writing gives the school exactly which families opposed their mandate.

  3. Horatio Bunce

    I understand Bill thinks local government is better, because it allows communities to make decisions for themselves, recognizing the 95 counties are not monolithic. But his executive order (not “our” order) is creating power where it does not exist. He is creating 150 potential tyrants. Some of them are chomping at the bit to force their way onto their neighbors, because they “know what is best”. If we want people to have liberty, they already had it. Nobody was preventing a parent from having their child wear a mask. Why should we have to “opt out” of someone else forcing their medical decisions on us? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is supposed to be the default position. People continuing to push these masks simply haven’t researched their complete uselessness in stopping aerosolized virus particles. They don’t work. Even the last 18 months data shows negligible difference in Coronahoax “cases” in masked vs unmasked communities. Frankly, if your school board is incapable of that level of evaluation, maybe they should no longer be in charge of your child’s education. Public schools aren’t the only option, just the cheapest for the user.

    1. 83ragtop50

      Horation – Exactly. A governor with any guts would have used the EO to kill the mandating of the wearing of masks in schools – the logical default position considering individual civil liberty. All he has done has encourage tinhorn tyrants to declare a mask mandate then forcing parents and guardians to determine how to “opt-out”. In other words Lee opted-out on those who elected him. It seems that this is his weak kneed method of avoiding the embarrassment of a special session. Something the Assembly should still demand. Lee might duck a special session but he will not be able to duck the next election – regardless of Trump’s very ill-advised endorsement. I support Trump but not many of his picks for local and state races.

  4. The entire masking phenomenon started at HCA without any supported science. It was called the Mask Of Shame. The Ontario Nurses Association fought it and won, twice.
    The mask are a coercion technique for compliance. Informed Consent made shameful.

    Mask do not stop aerosolized virus particles.

  5. Mark Knofler

    Could Weak Lee be any more wishy washy? He’s leaving the door wide open for the Marxist Dem to come in and win in 2022. #VotetheBumsOut!

    1. JB

      I am not sure of the logic that Lee isn’t doing enough is going to cause a ruby red state like TN to vote in a democrat dictator. Hopefully, Lee will have a primary opponent next year, which is something that I think he fears.

  6. LM

    We should have figured that – again- he is NOT going to stand for us who voted for him.

  7. John

    Way to lead from behind…Governor. He’s basically put this in the parent’s lap to fight. Some of us don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on lawyers to fight counties who are defying this executive order. Furthermore, why did you don’t allow a special sessions to happen? We are governed by LAWS not by executive orders!

    Then hear Carol Swain, while on her high horse, playing Monday morning quarterback, saying things like, “This is why I supported Diane Black.”

    Honey, the only difference between Lee and Black is that Lee did not have a political record to run on. We took him at his word when he said in his political ad, “I’m a Conservative.” Black had a record….a meaningless record of empty votes, much like Empty Suit Blackburn. Plus we all know Black has a truth telling problem, which came out in her last campaign. So come on off your throne, down here where the rest of us are.

    I seriously digress but I’m really peeved at ALL politicians right now….

  8. Mike

    What kind of garbage is this?