Gov. Bill Lee Says Masks, Vaccines Shouldn’t Be Required For Tennessee Schoolchildren

May 18, 2021

Gov. Bill Lee says masks and vaccines shouldn't be required for Tennessee schoolchildren.
Credit TN Photo Services

Tennessee’s governor is urging school districts to drop their mask requirements, even though most children remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.

Many school districts in Middle Tennessee are starting to reconsider their mask requirements — or at least they feel pressure from parents. Gov. Bill Lee says each district makes its own policies, but he’s hopeful they remove the requirement for face coverings.

“Science shows that children have very low risk for contracting COVID and for actually being sick as a result of it,” Lee told reporters on Monday, “so I’m hopeful that schools will make the decision not to require masks for their districts.”

The new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does allow vaccinated people to go maskless in most settings. But, children under 16 are only just now starting to get the vaccine, and kids under 12 still aren’t allowed.

Metro Schools has signaled its mask mandate will be in place through the end of the school year, but no decision has been made about the fall.

Not calling for vaccine requirements

Lee says he also does not plan to call for making the COVID vaccine a requirement for children to attend school. The state has begun inoculating children as young as 12, but Lee notes “it has been authorized only under emergency use.”

As of now, no state requires schoolchildren to receive the COVID vaccine. On the other hand, a growing list of colleges are making it mandatory for students returning in the fall.