DORCHESTER, S.C. (WCBD) – Dorchester District Two School Board (DD2) officials on Monday responded to concerns regarding the district’s lack of a mask mandate for students and staff despite rising COVID-19 cases within the community.

The acknowledgement came on the heels of a moment of silence for the four DD2 staff members lost within the past week; three were confirmed COVID-19 deaths.

Officials said that while safety is a top priority, they do not feel they can mandate masks in schools due to SC Budget Proviso 1.108, which is intended to ban mask mandates in schools.

“When we were elected, part of the oath we took was to uphold the laws of the state of South Carolina,” said board member Gail Hughes. She said that the group has spoken with several attorneys, and they feel that they are obligated to abide by the proviso.

“All we can do is what we’re mandated to do, because we think our moral values are very important. I don’t think we would be teaching our children the right thing to do if we go against the law of South Carolina.”

Gail Hughes, DD2 Board

Hughes acknowledged that the decision was not based on health so much as it was on legality.

“No one knows if the mask is the way to go or not the way to go,” she said. “None of us up here are doctors… we’ve tried to listen to the doctors, we’ve tried to listen to the scientists, but it keeps changing.”

For now, Hughes said that the board agrees requiring masks be worn in schools is beyond their reach.

Click here to watch the full meeting.