MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — As COVID-19 cases surge across the state, South Carolina House Democrats are calling for Governor Henry McMaster to call an emergency session to repeal Proviso 1.108, which bans schools from requiring masks.
Proviso 1.108 is in the state budget, which bans schools from using state funds to have any sort of mask requirement in schools.
“With the Delta variant on the rise — and because all children under the age of 12 are unvaccinated — it will be disasters if school districts do not take action,” House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford said in a statement.
Rutherford said local districts must act to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and should be allowed to act without the threat of being sued by Attorney General Alan Wilson.
“The last thing the State of South Carolina should be doing right now is tying the hands of local leaders who want to protect their communities,” Rutherford said.
Brian Symmes, the governor’s communications director, said the General Assembly can call members back into session for any reason. However, in a statement late Monday afternoon, he reiterated McMaster’s stance on masks.
“The governor’s position on masks in schools, however, has remained clear throughout the pandemic – a parent has the ultimate expertise when it comes to the health and safety of their families, and it should be a parent’s decision alone that determines whether their child wears a facemask at school,” Symmes said.
The education advocacy group SC for Ed also called on cities and school districts over the weekend to defy McMaster and require masks. One school district is shifting back to virtual learning due to the increase in cases. The City of Columbia passed a mask mandate for schools, but Wilson said it violates state law. The mayor says it doesn’t because the city would use its own money to pay for the supplies, not state money.
Local governments in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee who responded to a News13 request on Monday said they were not aware of any plans to challenge McMaster.