In a veto message, Cooper said the proposal could set a dangerous precedent that allows residents to choose which public health rules they adhere to. He also reiterated support for leaving the decision up to local school boards to set masking policies for themselves.
"I have encouraged local boards to lift mask mandates and they are doing it across the state with the advice of health officials who see that COVID metrics are declining and vaccinations are increasing," Cooper wrote. "The bipartisan law the legislature passed and I signed last year allows local boards to make these decisions for their own communities and that is still the right course. Passing laws for political purposes that encourage people to pick and choose which health rules they want to follow is dangerous and could tie the hands of public health officials in the future."
The measure that would let parents opt out of mask mandates for their children could still become law without the governor's signature if enough Democrats who supported the bill state lawmakers passed last week vote to override Cooper's decision.
Republican House Speaker Tim Moore swiftly voiced his frustration with Cooper's decision.
"I am disappointed that Governor Cooper has vetoed this common-sense bill," Moore said in a statement. "All health care decisions for our students belong with their parents, not with politicians or bureaucrats. Actions speak louder than words, and the governor should do more than 'encourage' schools to lift their mask mandates. Return this decision back to parents."