Tennessee State Legislators Push Back Against Biden Administration Claim Parents Opting Out of Mask Mandates Is a Civil Rights Violation


U.S. Department of Education (DOE) officials announced Monday they will investigate Tennessee and four other states that allow parents the right to opt out of a public school’s COVID-19 mask mandates.

In a press release, DOE officials said such policies could discriminate against students who are disabled and at heightened risk for severe illness.

Members of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s staff did not return The Tennessee Star’s requests for comment Monday.

Tennessee Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said via email Monday that mothers and fathers must take charge of their child’s healthcare decisions.

“If school boards want to impose mask mandates, parents should have various options for their children and, at a minimum, the ability to opt-out, as well as the ability to use their education dollars to attend a school of their choice,” Sexton said.

Lee this month 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.

Adam Kleinheider, speaking for Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) said via email Monday that Lee’s order was a compromise. That compromise, Kleinheider said, ensures the health and safety of students while giving parents the right to decide what is best for their children.

“Nothing in the order prohibits a mandate. It merely affirms the right of parents to opt out,” Kleinheider said.

“Exceptions to vaccine or mask mandates for religious and medical reasons are quite common and consistent with the executive order. Lt. Governor McNally continues to assert this is an appropriate and lawful policy and does not violate anyone’s civil rights.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in the press release that parents nationwide — especially those with disabilities and other underlying medical conditions — have contacted his department. Those parents, Cardona said, tell him that state bans on universal indoor masking endanger their children.

“It’s simply unacceptable that state leaders are putting politics over the health and education of the students they took an oath to serve,” Cardona said.

The DOE will also investigate whether statewide prohibitions on universal indoor masking violate Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the press release said.

State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) told The Star by email Monday that he finds the DOE’s inclusion of the ADA as justification for requiring masks “a bit incongruous.”

“Those who suffer from respiratory conditions which are exacerbated by masks seem to have their disability ignored,” Ragan wrote.

“Similarly, those with certain cardiac conditions or claustrophobia among other conditions for which masks could be detrimental, are ignored. Are such conditions not also a ‘disability?’ I suppose the answer to that question is that they are not a ‘politically correct’ disability. It would seem, to borrow a bit of the tone from Orwell’s Animal Farm, “all disabilities are equal, but there are some more equal than others.”

DOE officials also said they are also investigating COVID-19 public school mask mandates in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Elementary students in masks line up for temperature checks 2” by Alliance for Excellent Education. CC BY-NC 2.0.

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8 Thoughts to “Tennessee State Legislators Push Back Against Biden Administration Claim Parents Opting Out of Mask Mandates Is a Civil Rights Violation”

  1. Ron W

    IF, IF they were supporting “civil rights” THEN the.choice if each person, or a parent with their children, would be the right vs. those who want to FORCE their choice on others by a school board backed up by the Federal Government for which it HAS NO DELEGATED POWERS !!!

  2. Deborah

    The anti-science coming from the Biden administration and other totalitarian control pushers is astonishing in the modern era. It seems that we are not so modern after all. When medieval jihadists are given free rein to impose their brutal regime, and the superstitious wearing of symbols of submission is lauded by the “elites”, we have reverted to the mentality of the Dark Ages.

  3. Stand Firm Tennessee!

    If you or your organization is “requiring” masking, or discriminating against those refusing that medical intervention, you must respond to the following points due to the fact that masking has not been proven to prevent any disease at any time, and masking itself may cause injuries and illnesses.
    1) Since masking is a medical intervention and can cause injury and illness, it must be administered by a licensed physician. Please show your license to practice medicine.
    2) Medical prescriptions, by law cannot be forced. Medical treatment must be voluntary. You must have, in your records, my signed personal or parental acceptance of your mask program. If you do not have that signed consent, then consent is denied, and any retaliation, “consequences” or denial of services, access or employment shall represent medical discrimination for which you are personally and collectively liable.
    3) Your “requirement” for others to use face coverings requires you to show specific science for specific styles of masks and how they prevent specific diseases. We have not found any such scientific support for wearing masks and we believe that there is no rational basis for requiring people to wear masks without medical verification of need and safety per individual, per disease and per mask.
    4) We have found that totally unqualified politicians and corporate officers are oddly “requiring” masking or face coverings without the slightest scientific, medical or factual support for that practice. Such “mandates” have no basis in law, science or medicine and are fraudulent and dangerous. 
    5) We have found that claims of the “effectiveness” of masks are not supported by many highly qualified immunologists, physicians and researchers, and, in fact, many of them are strongly advising AGAINST wearing of masks. We therefore rightfully have a high standard of proof of the benefits and efficacy of face coverings as you seem to be implying.
    6) The fact that viral material is a small fraction of the size of air passages in all consumer face masks causes any “requirement” to wear those masks totally invalid if the purpose is prevention of viral transmission.
    7) Apart from the necessity for patient consent and physician’s license, and apart from the fact that masks are generally unhealthful due do re-breathing of biologically contaminated air and excess C02, various conditions such as asthma, immune system deficiencies, respiratory deficiencies, lung conditions, hypoxia,  cognitive disorders due to oxygen deprivation, psychological aversion to face coverings, etc. These conditions are medical contra-indications to the wearing of masks. Please show your written policies on how such disorders are exempt from your mask-wearing policies.
    8) Any failure to fully and properly respond to any point above is cause for our exemption from mask-wearing. By any attempted discrimination against me, my family or my children for denying consent to wear masks, you are agreeing to all resulting liabilities for any negative consequences along with major monetary civil penalties for threatening and terrorizing our family with inappropriate policies, medical tyranny, extortion, harassment, abuse and various other forms of moral and legal misconduct.

  4. Horatio Bunce

    “That compromise, Kleinheider said, ensures the health and safety of students while giving parents the right to decide what is best for their children.”

    On the contrary, parents retain this pre-existing right to choose what is best for their children. It is not “given” by governor edict. Pfizer McNally’s compromise has created a faux authority where none exists. The idea that public school boards can unilaterally regulate and prescribe medical devices for all students is ludicrous….not to mention practicing medicine without a license. But then the state Department of Health had no problem with no-license Deborah Birx doing the same.

  5. Steve Allen

    The federal government can go pound sand. It’s obvious by now that they are intentionally trying to destroy our Nation. If that’s not the case, they have absolutely no right to be in control of America. So I guess that’s why they had to cheat their way into control of Washington.

  6. Noal Sartain

    THE WAY SCHOOLS ARE INSTATING MASK MANDATES INCREASES THE COVID RISK TO OUR CHILDREN. No hospital could keep its accreditation while using masks the way schools are currently doing so.

    -Approving the use of masks of any quality and effectiveness
    -Allowing people to reuse their masks
    -Having no proper marked and designed containers for disposing of masks once used
    -Having no safe plan for addressing mask litter (Used masks are everywhere!)

    1 Exactly what has changed since the early months of the Covid pandemic when Fauci et al were telling us that the handling and adjusting of masks made them a hazard?

    2 If the elected officials who enact mask mandates truly believe there is science that says wearing masks prevents the spread of Covid, then why do we regularly see them in public gatherings not wearing a mask?

    The way schools are requiring masks increases the level of Covid risk to our children.

  7. Horatio Bunce

    “Those parents, Cardona said, tell him that state bans on universal indoor masking endanger their children.

    “It’s simply unacceptable that state leaders are putting politics over the health and education of the students they took an oath to serve,” Cardona said.”

    It would appear that the Secretary of Education has poor reading comprehension. There is no prohibition on “indoor” masking in Tennessee schools. If any parent wishes to place a Chinese bacteria reinhaler on their child while at public school (at their neighbors’ expense) they are free to do so.

    And why do those “disabilities” not exist when “outdoors”?

    There will be no science coming on this. No specifications or filtration performance for the masks they so want to force on us. Because none exist that will slow aerosolized virus particles. This is more pandering, using children as their human shields.

  8. David Blackwell RN, BSN, CCM

    It is getting time for Tennessee to leave the union. Tennessee should form a Tennessee State music Silver Bank and team up with our musicians to sell our one commodity for constitutional United States silver dollars. The federal government is an arm of the Rockefellers at this point. The federal government is nothing more than a front for a Central Bank. If it were not for Tennessee there would be no Texas.