COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson says the City of Columbia’s newly implemented mask mandate violates state law.
Wilson delivered a letter to Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and members of city council warning them that the school mask mandate – implemented through an emergency declaration – goes against state law and said the city must take action or face legal consequences.
Columbia ratified an ordinance last week mandating the use of masks in Columbia elementary and middle schools for at least the beginning of the school year.
“It is the opinion of my office that these ordinances are in conflict with state law and should either be rescinded or amended. Otherwise, the city will be subject to appropriate legal actions to enjoin their enforcement,” Attorney General Wilson wrote to council members. “While we appreciate the efforts of city leaders around the state to protect their populace from the spread of the COVID-19 virus and variants of it, these efforts must conform to state law.”
Wilson said SC Senate President Harvey Peeler and House Speaker Jay Lucas wrote him a letter saying the legislature’s intent was to ban mask mandates in schools. Additionally, Wilson also sent them letters saying he had reviewed the budget proviso and he agrees that lawmakers intended to ban mask mandates like this one.
That proviso states, “No school district, or any of its schools, may use any funds appropriated or authorized pursuant to this act to require that its students and/or employees wear a facemask at any of its education facilities.”
Wilson told city council members that encouraging facemask wearing by city officials and even requirements for facemasks in city buildings and other facilities would not be in violation of the proviso.
“Also, parents, students, and school employees may choose to wear facemasks anywhere at any time,” he said in the letter.