South Carolina Supreme Court says Columbia school mask mandate violates proviso

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Supreme Court said Thursday that the Columbia school mask mandate violates Proviso 1.108, which banned schools from using state money to enforce mask requirements.

The court ruled that the order places responsibility on school personnel to enforce it, putting them at odds to choose between violating state law or local law.

The court ruled Proviso 1.108 preempts the city’s ordinance. The court also ruled that the state legislature’s policy to allow parents to choose whether or not their kids wear masks is constitutional.

“We find, as we must, that the wisdom of the state legislature to allow parents to decide whether their children wear masks — instead of mandating masks for all students — is for others to debate, not for this Court to decide.”

The court says even though the City of Columbia said it would only use city funds to enforce it, it’s not possible to be done without the help of school personnel, and in turn, state money.

The court said it does not “outright reject the possibility that a local government could impose a mask mandate without contravening Proviso 1.108.”

Justice George James, Jr., wrote that “this Court is not called upon to declare what the ‘right science’ is or to declare whether the proviso reflects either sound public health policy or a complete lack of common sense on the part of the General Assembly.”

South Carolina Atorney General Alan Wilson released the following statement after the ruling:

“We appreciate the Supreme Court’s quick ruling and its confirmation of our legal arguments. The Court emphasized what we’ve been saying all along, that we are not arguing mask policy, we are arguing the rule of law. The Court has confirmed that a city ordinance cannot conflict with state law.”

Governor Henry McMaster said the court’s ruling was “sound.”

“A parent’s right to decide what’s best for their child is now definitively protected by state law,” McMaster said in a statement. “I would again encourage anyone eligible to receive the vaccine to get vaccinated.”

Joe Cunningham, who is running for Governor in 2022, released the following statement:

“It’s time for the Governor to stop worrying about his poll numbers and start worrying about the fact that hospitals are out of ICU beds, schools are shutting down, and our state now leads the nation in the rate of new cases.”

According to New York Times data, South Carolina has the third most new COVID-19 cases per capita over the last seven days.

Cunningham called for McMaster to call the legislature back and “fix your mistake.”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the state last week saying the mask requirement ban discriminates against students with disabilities and underlying health conditions.

Read the full ruling below:

The ruling doesn’t affect higher education, since they are bound by a different proviso.

This is a developing story. Refresh for updates.

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