COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — A few hours after rescinding the face covering requirement in South Carolina schools, State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman spoke out against the Governor’s Executive Order issued Tuesday.
She said the order, which was announced after 5:00pm Tuesday, caused confusion at schools across the state Wednesday morning.
During a briefing with the state health department, DHEC, Spearman said, “I have rescinded our order to try to establish some type of order so school districts can perform in peace and quiet the last few weeks of school.”
In a statement released by the state Department of Education Wednesday, they said the Governor did not have ‘legal grounds’ to allow parents to opt out their child from mask requirements.
The statement went on to say, “The Governor thoroughly understands the rule of law and surely recognizes this but has been successful in his mission of circumventing public health guidance by inciting hysteria and sowing division in the waning days of the school year.“
During the briefing Spearman said this set a ‘dangerous precedent.’
The Department of Education said they rescinded their face covering requirement to avoid a debate over constitutionality. Superintendent Spearman said she was hoping to lift the mask requirement at the end of the school year.
According to Spearman, she was not consulted by the Governor before his order was announced. She said asked his staff to not issue the Executive Order.
Governor Henry McMaster spoke at a commencement ceremony in Myrtle Beach Wednesday. After the ceremony he spoke with reporters. He said, “We have a lot of people making these decisions and having different parts to it. These decisions are not made in secret.”
DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer also chimed in on the Governor’s Executive Order. He said they did not agree with the timing of the Governor’s decision.
Dr. Simmer said, “We think the mask mandates should have remained in place for another month or two from a public health standpoint to get the maximum benefit.”
He said he wanted to see more people vaccinated and lower case rates in the state before a change like this was made.
Gov. McMaster said he doesn’t believe parents needed to wait any longer to decide if their child wore a mask at school.
Dr. Simmer said DHEC is complying with the order. They have completed the opt out forms for parents and guardians to fill out. Superintendent Spearman said one of her concerns right now is liability. She hopes these forms will protect schools and taxpayers from having to pay for the lawsuits.
“Districts are very concerned about this. It’s up to them and their own oversight over it because they’re looking at it hopefully being a way to protect themselves if there is a lawsuit filed over a teacher or student getting sick,” she said.
Officials said, the federal requirement of wearing masks on school buses remains in place.