Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order Monday giving parents the ability to make decisions about whether their kids wear masks in schools.

He stated:

I want to acknowledge the frustration and fear that many are feeling – fear of COVID and its effects on your family, fear of government intervention and its effect, and frustration over everything from masks to information that changes by the day.

Right now, some of the greatest frustration is occurring in our K-12 schools, especially around the issue of mask mandates. While local decision-making is important, individual decision-making by a parent on issues regarding the health and well-being of their child is the most important.

No one cares more about the health and well-being of a child than a parent. I am signing an executive order today 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.

Districts will make the decision they believe are best for their schools, but parents will have the ultimate decision-making for their individual child’s health and well-being. I will not be calling a special session at this time.

The executive order says, “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.”

The decision comes as kids go back to school in the midst of ever-changing COVID-19 guidance and intense debates surrounding school board decisions regarding mask-wearing for children.

Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been in a legal battle with local districts who wish to defy his executive order banning mask mandates and impose their own restrictions on regions and schools. 

Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has also been pushing back against local officials in his state who wish to require mask-wearing in defiance of his executive order that gives parents the right to make decisions about whether their children wear masks. 

Last week, the Biden administration further involved itself into the debates going on in the Republican governors’ states. 

As The Daily Wire reported, “Fox News reported Saturday that U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote a letter to DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran informing them that the federal government would provide funds to school districts that defy the governor’s order and risk losing state funding.” 

“Florida’s recent actions to block school districts from voluntarily adopting science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are aligned with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts students and staff at risk,” Cardona wrote.

“We are eager to partner with [the Florida Department of Education] on any efforts to further our shared goals of protecting the health and safety of students and educators,” Cardona added. “If FLDOE does not wish to pursue such an approach, the Department will continue to work directly with the school districts and educators that serve Florida’s students.”

Cardona sent a similar letter to Abbott, saying that the Department of Education “stands with” the educators who are “working to safely reopen schools and maintain safe in-person instruction.”

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