Sen. Luke Rankin of Horry County among senators asking for special session to reconsider school mask mandate ban

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) – A bipartisan group of South Carolina senators is requesting a special session to reconsider the prohibition on mask mandates in schools.

In a letter sent Monday, the group asked SC Senate President Harvey Peeler to call the body back in session.

Republican Senator Luke Rankin, who represents Horry County, is among those who signed the letter that says in part, “Many in the Senate would like to revisit this proviso given the current conditions”.

The letter says that the number of COVID-19 cases is once again on the rise in South Carolina and that the Delta variant is spreading at an alarming rate. It also says that hospitals are overwhelmed and the state’s vaccination rate continues to lag.

The senators say in the letter, “experts believe the spread of COVID-19 will explode” and that more than 1,000 doctors and pediatricians in the state have asked senators to return to session to reconsider the ban on masks in schools.

Rankin told News13 Monday night that it’s not pro- or anti-mask, but instead just letting the school districts across the state make their own decisions.

“This is purely an effort to allow Horry County School District and the other districts across the state the ability to speak to their local concerns, unique in Horry County, perhaps different than Richland, perhaps different than Greenville,” he said.

Rankin said school districts’ hands are tied due to “a decision that was made in a vacuum” in Columbia.

“We should not be making this decision in a vacuum, and we should not be prohibiting a school district who had a measure in place before from being able to continue that,” he said.

“Unfortunately the state General Assembly decided something in a vacuum that is preventing our school districts from doing what they need to do,” Rankin added.

Rankin said that the decision is not a political one but a decision that should be made by people on the front line.

“We’re all tired of this,” he said. “This decision, unfortunately, was made in the best of times and did not allow for recognition for what times we’re in right now with our school children.”

Over the weekend, the teachers’ group SC for Ed called on city and county governments to challenge the state law banning mask requirements. Columbia City Council defied Governor Henry McMaster last week and passed a mask mandate for elementary and middle schools in the city that Attorney General Alan Wilson said violated state law.

City and county government officials across the Grand Strand and Pee Dee regions say they are keeping a close watch on the statewide fight over whether face coverings should be required at schools.

This is a developing story. Count on News13 for updates.

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