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Charleston County schools increase security as parents protest mask mandate

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 1:27 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2021 at 8:13 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County schools deployed extra security staff this week as the district started to enforce its mandatory mask mandate.

The new policy, which was approved by the school board last week, started Monday, but Wednesday marked the first day students were sent home for not wearing a mask.

“Our district’s Office of Security and Emergency Management has deployed all of their staff members throughout the schools where we anticipated there potentially being some issues with community members and/or parents,” school district spokesperson Andy Pruitt said.

Some of these additional staff members wear red shirts and before this week were members of the random search team. They are there as a support for those enforcing the mask mandate, Pruitt said.

“There were a couple times this week where the conversations got pretty tough,” Pruitt said. “If it escalated to a certain situation, we wanted to make sure we had our security team there as well to assist staff members.”

Earlier this week, more than a dozen parents protested outside Cario Middle School in Mount Pleasant. The parents argued masks should be a choice, not mandated.

On Tuesday morning, Mount Pleasant police officers responded to the school after staff said some parents didn’t leave the property when they were asked to, Inspector Don Calabrese said. One person was issued a summons for trespassing after notice.

Officers also responded that same morning to a “disturbance” at Laing Middle School. District staff was able to resolve that issue.

The extra security staff members are now stationed throughout the district, but Pruitt says he doesn’t believe it’ll be permanent.

“I just think it’s going to be based on what we’re hearing, what we’re seeing, and when those conversations take place, what’s the best step forward to make sure all of our staff and all of our students are as safe as possible,” Pruitt said.

Under the mask policy, all students who are sent home will learn virtually until at least Oct. 15. Some parents have also now filed a motion to stop the district from enforcing the mandate. They’re waiting on a judge’s ruling.

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