Gov. McMaster allows parents to opt children out of face mask requirements at school

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 7:32 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order late Tuesday to allow parents to decide whether their children will wear face masks in the classroom.

The order comes as parents have demanded that school districts, including the Charleston County School District, drop face mask requirements for their children.

“We have known for months that our schools are some of the safest places when it comes to COVID-19,” McMaster said. “With every adult in our state having the opportunity to receive a vaccine, it goes against all logic to continue to force our children – especially our youngest children – to wear masks against their parents’ wishes. Whether a child wears a mask in school is a decision that should be left only to a student’s parents.”

The order directs the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control and the state’s Department of Education to distribute waivers to parents and staff members in schools. If parents sign the waiver, it would allow their children to go without a mask inside school buildings.

Concerning local ordinances, the governor’s executive order explicitly prohibits any county or local governments throughout the state from relying on prior orders or a state of emergency as the basis for a local mask mandate, McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said.

“With the COVID-19 vaccine readily available and case numbers dropping, I will not allow local governments to use the state of emergency declaration as a reason for implementing or maintaining mask mandates,” McMaster said. “Everybody knows what we need to do to stay safe – including wearing a mask if you’re at risk of exposing others – but we must move past the time of governments dictating when and where South Carolinians are required to wear a mask. Maintaining the status quo ignores all of the great progress we’ve made.”

The order also prohibits any local government, state agency, state employee, or any political subdivision of the state from requiring South Carolinians to provide proof of their vaccination status as a condition for receiving any government services or gaining access to any building, facility, or geographic location.

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