Tennessee school board expands mask mandate after parents' opposition

A Tennessee school board expanded its mask mandate Thursday night following an incident earlier in the month in which a group of parents demonstrated outside of a board meeting, shouting and heckling health care professionals over their support for face coverings.

The Williamson County Schools voted 8-4 at a special meeting Thursday night to require elementary through high school students to wear masks, the Tennessean reported.

The original mask mandate only applied to elementary school students and staff. The mandate will be in place until Sept. 21. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"Due to the fact that our main goal is to keep kids on campus and to keep our students and staff safe and protected, I would like to move to extend the motion that we made two weeks ago, for all grades K through 12," board member Jennifer Aprea said.

A board member who approved of the first measure to require elementary school students use masks opposed the expansion of the mandate, according to the outlet.

"I'm not convinced that universal masking is something that we have to do at this point," Sheila Cleveland said.

The expansion comes after a group of parents objected to mask mandates earlier in August. The group gathered outside of the Williamson County School board meeting at the time, chanting “we’ll not comply” when health care workers exited the meeting building.

"You're not on our side!" one parent yelled at the workers. "We know who you are." 

“We know who you are. You can leave freely, but we will find you,” another parent said.

ADVERTISEMENT

The expanded mandate comes after Republican Gov. Bill Lee recently signed an executive order that allows parents to opt their children out of mask mandates at their schools, a move that one of the school board members supported.

"How long are we going to beat this dead horse to death," the member, Dan Cash, said. "Who do we listen to? What do we listen to? How about the parents who are sending their kids to school, and caring for them and loving them? Why do we have to continue this?"

The district reported more than 4,500 students out of their 18,000 elementary students have already been opted out of the mandate.