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State Democrats call for special session to repeal mask mandate ban proviso

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 11:59 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2021 at 4:36 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina House Democratic Caucus is calling state House and Senate leaders to convene an emergency session of the General Assembly.

Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun, urged State Senate President Harvey Peeler and House Speaker Jay Lucas to call state lawmakers back to the Statehouse to repeal Proviso 1.108, a temporary law passed in June that prohibits school districts or schools from requiring the use of face masks.

The proviso states, “No school district, or any of its schools, may use any funds appropriated or authorized pursuant to this act to require that its students and/or employees wear a facemask at any of its education facilities.”

Ott said this is not about Democrats or Republicans.

“We’re not here to criticize anyone for their vote back in June, when the seven-day average of new cases stood at 160,” Ott said. “Today, however, the seven-day average is 3,000 and school officials need the ability to implement measures they feel necessary to keep the children of South Carolina safe.”

Ott said repealing the proviso is important because they want all children in the classroom where he says they can best learn.

“We all want our parents to be able to continue working, and not to have to stay at home with those children and help them learn,” he said. “But most importantly, we want to keep our children safe and stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Rep. Patricia Henegan, D-Marlboro, said she is greatly concerned for children, their families, teachers and administrators whom she said are all at risk because “the state of South Carolina is failing to protect them.”

“It is my hope that we will do better,” she said. “Getting kids back in the classroom should not be based on should never be based on politics. Instead, our politics should be based on public health.”

She also referred to the death last week of a 16-year-old boy who died in Lancaster County from COVID-19, just days before school reopened.

Sen. John Scott, D-Richland, said the state is headed back into “a real emergency situation.”

“We have to be responsible,” he said. “We cannot pass the buck and say this is how I feel. What about the school board members? What about the parents? What about the grandparents who pick these kids up in the afternoon?”

“The governor is wrong, plain and simple. He’s just wrong,” Rep. Wendy Brawley, D-Richland, said. “You cannot allow parents alone to make this kind of decision in the middle of a pandemic.”

Brawley said we don’t allow parents to decide with children wear to school; instead, she said, there are dress codes.

“So how in the world, in the middle of a pandemic, are we saying to all of the other parents that your children have to be guarded and guarded by, in fact, some misinformed, parents? Our job is to tell people the truth so that they can make informed decisions. Shame on the governor for clouding the issue. This is not political. This is not a parental choice, this does not infringe upon anyone’s right. This is about saving lives and saving children’s lives who cannot make these decisions for themselves.”

Gov. Henry McMaster has previously said he believes school districts should not require masks.

“The new variant the Delta there it does pose a real threat. We know that it spreads more easily,” McMaster said on Aug. 9. “But shutting our state down, closing schools and masking children who have no choice -- for the government to mask children who have no choice to protect adults who do have a choice is the wrong thing to do. And we’re not going to do it.”

McMaster also said masks in the classroom make it difficult for teachers and students to communicate with one another because they cannot see each others’ faces.

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