SC Senator speaks at Horry County School board meeting on mask mandate

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Senator Greg Hembree spoke at Monday night’s Horry County School board meeting to address the state’s proviso banning mask mandates in schools.

Recently, Hembree wrote a editorial saying school districts could use COVID-19 relief funds to hire part-time staff to enforce a mask mandate.

Hembree, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the state budget proviso banning mask mandates in schools only specifies that districts cannot use state funding to implement, communicate or enforce a mandate.

Horry County School board member Howard Barnard invited Hembree to the meeting to talk about the editorial and answer questions.

“I’m not advocating for masking people. I’m not advocating for not masking people. That’s not my call at your level. I think districts are at a better place to do that,” Senator Greg Hembree said.

Hembree said there are hundreds of specialty amendments added to the state budget every year. The state house and senate make separate versions of the budget, which are then sent to a committee for a compromise. He said the committee has a lot of control over the process, and that’s how the proviso got through.

Horry County School board member Sherrie Todd expressed her frustration with the proviso saying that it puts them in a tough spot as school leaders.

“You came out with a statement and now we’re getting all these calls about why don’t we do this and why don’t we do that,” Todd said.

Todd added, “when I see children, I don’t see democrats and republicans, I see children and our children have been sick.”

Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey thanked Hembree for coming but wanted to make it clear that going around the proviso would be illegal.

“My advice to you as board members is to not pursue the use of federal funds to support a mask mandate because it’s clearly spelled out in the appropriations bill that that would be a violation,” Maxey said.

No decisions by the school board were made or discussed.

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