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Some Charleston County students sent home for not wearing a mask

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 4:21 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2021 at 6:13 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Some Charleston County students were sent home Wednesday for not complying with the school district’s new mask requirement, and more than a dozen parents protested the move.

All of the students who refused to wear a mask will now learn virtually until at least Oct. 15. Charleston County School District officials said 15 students refused to wear a mask on Wednesday at Cario Middle School.

The new policy, which was approved by the school board last week, started Monday, but Wednesday marked the first day students would be sent home for violating it.

“Most of our students and families are supporting the enforcement of the masks and are adhering to the policy,” District spokesperson Andy Pruitt said. “Obviously, we’re going to have places where that’s not happening.”

On Wednesday morning, more than a dozen parents protested outside Cario Middle School in Mount Pleasant. The parents argued masks should be a choice, not mandated.

“The unfortunate thing we’re seeing sometimes when people disagree with the mask policy being enforced is that some of our staff is not being treated very well,” Pruitt said. “We understand there’s going to be a disagreement about this, but we just ask we conduct these interactions in as neutral or even positive way as possible.”

School Board Chair Rev. Dr. Eric Mack said he’s not surprised by the protests.

“I understand parents advocating for their child and their students, but as a whole, we have to make sure the safety and health of all of our students are protected to every measure as they come into in-person learning,” Mack said.

He went on to say the school board will look at the policy again on or before Oct. 15, and “there’s a possibility it will be extended” if COVID numbers remain too high.

“Each week, DHEC puts out a rating of every county in the state on recent disease activity, and the Charleston County rating is at medium,” Mack said. “The mask policy will remain in place until we at least reach a low COVID activity response.”

Since the start of the school year, the district has reported more than 1,800 COVID cases in its schools. More than a thousand others have had to quarantine.

“We ask for the cooperation from parents, students, and staff to see if we can just wear the mask until we can bring down the COVID numbers,” Mack said. “If we continue to have these maskless students coming to school, we’ll have more quarantines, we’ll have more virtual learning, and we’ll probably have more positive cases throughout our schools.”

This mask mandate comes despite state law saying school districts cannot use state funds to enforce mask requirements. Mack said the district is using reserve funds to pay for the salaries of those enforcing the mandate, not state funds.

Students with religious, medical, or developmental exemptions will still be able to attend class even if they’re not wearing a mask.

For more information from the district on this policy, click here.

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