Photo: Tennessee Governor Bill Lee
Photo Credit: Gov. Bill Lee / Facebook
Published August 30, 2021
By Jon Styf [The Center Square contributor] –
Shelby County sued Gov. Bill Lee in his official role as Tennessee governor on Thursday over his executive order allowing parents to opt out of school mask mandates.
The Shelby County lawsuit asks the federal court to claim jurisdiction, declare the executive order a violation of the constitution and to issue a temporary restraining order against the executive order, allowing school districts to implement mask mandates in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially the Delta variant.
The lawsuit, filed in the Western District of Tennessee and posted by The Daily Memphian, asks for relief from the court on three grounds. The lawsuit claims that the executive order violates the 14th Amendment’s provision that no state shall deprive “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” and it “shocks the conscience.”
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“Both the Governor and the State’s Health Department acknowledge that masks are the best available method to protect children from this rampant, deadly disease. And yet, the Executive Order inexplicably bars Shelby County (and every other county from exercising its authority … to require universal masking in schools.”
The second claim is that Lee’s order “makes the maintenance and support of a system of free schools impossible.”
The third claim is that the executive order does not allow schools to comply with the federal American Rescue Plan’s order for local school districts to implement health and safety protocols.
That claim was the subject of a letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to Lee and education commissioner Penny Schwinn. The Department of Education said that it was up to the governor to respond to the letter regarding his executive order.
“Regarding the Biden Administration letter: Parents know better than the government what’s best for their children,” Lee tweeted.
Cardona, however, maintained that Lee’s order would get in the way of school districts following through on the safety plans required for ARPA funding.
“Tennessee’s 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) … may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by Federal law,” Cardona’s letter said.
About the Author:
Jon Styf is a freelance writer for Tennessee and South Carolina.
Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.