(The Center Square) – South Carolina is defending a budget change prohibiting local governments and public school authorities from imposing mandatory masking mandates as plaintiffs and defendants in state and state court lawsuits.
The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled against Attorney General Alan Wilson for ruling that higher education institutions like the University of South Carolina can require masks for all students, but the court did not lift the bans on local bodies.
Wilson has been since then filed a lawsuit by the state Supreme Court against the city of Columbia, which demanded masks in schools to be heard for violating the budget change after a COVID-19 emergency was declared.
Now the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents disability rights groups and parents of children with disabilities, has one legal action in the U.S. District Court in Columbia argues the mask ban on budget change puts vulnerable public school students at risk.
The General Assembly passed reservation 1.108 in June when it passed the state budget for the fiscal year 2022. It prohibits school districts from using government funds to require masks in schools.
The ACLU has joined the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center in the lawsuit; Disability Rights South Carolina; Wyche, PA; and parents of children who are too young to be vaccinated with asthma, congenital myopathy, autism, Renpenning’s syndrome, and a weakened immune system that makes them susceptible to serious illness from COVID-19.
The lawsuit names Governor Henry McMaster; Wilson; Headmistress Molly Spearman; and the Greenville, Horry, Lexington, Oconee, and Pickens Counties’ school boards, which cited the state budget reserve, did not impose mask requirements, as defendants.
The ACLU claims that the mask mandate ban “disproportionately affects students with underlying health conditions or disabilities” and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act by “unnecessarily excluding” students with disabilities from their peers.
“By making schools a dangerous place for these students with disabilities, they are essentially forcing their parents to choose between their child’s education and their child’s health,” said Susan Mizner, project leader for the ACLU project on disability rights. “And that will exclude them from their public education.”
McMaster dismissed claims in the lawsuit as “totally inaccurate” and is confident the budget change will stand up to legal scrutiny.
“We received a letter from (US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona) about (the ADA) and what we are doing here is completely legal in my opinion,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden has at Cardona. Directed to investigate possible legal action against the eight states, including South Carolina, that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures.
The others are Florida, Texas, Utah, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Iowa, and as of September 29, Arizona. The ACLU has filed a similar lawsuit in Texas.
“While we’re not commenting on any specific litigation, the only truly inclusive option is to give each parent a chance to decide whether their child wears a mask in school, Symmes said Wednesday.
Spearman, despite being a defendant in the lawsuit, opposes the budget change and has campaigned for the autonomy of local school authorities to deal with the pandemic. she is among officials who lobby legislative leaders to convene a special session to lift the reservation.
“Superintendent Spearman has made a strong commitment to empowering locally elected South Carolina principals, with input from parents and their communities, to make decisions that affect the health and wellbeing of the students they serve,” said Spearman – Speaker Ryan Brown in a statement. “We look forward to the court finally asking this question.”