Beaufort Co. School District hears from more than 70 speakers at meeting for masking in schools

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 11:02 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2021 at 11:55 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - The Beaufort County Board of Education was burning the midnight oil Monday night. They’re trying to decide if students will be required to wear masks in schools.

If approved, it would go against South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster’s proviso preventing school districts from mandating masks.

After an executive meeting, the board voted to table the motion until the Supreme Court rules on the case that is currently pending on masking in schools. The motion passed 9-2.

The meeting went on for more than six hours. The board heard from more than 70 speakers, some dialed in over the phone but a majority of them came in person.

The board met with public health experts while in executive session, then heard from the community.

Beaufort County parents, children and more shared what they think is best for kids in Beaufort County Schools.

“Yes COVID is dangerous we didn’t ask for this but we have to be able to come together as a group of people to decide what is best,” said one speaker.

“Why are we wasting our time putting masks on children? If you are really concerned about life and really are compassionate want to help grandma, than you should be doing something to help the elderly,” said another speaker.

According to the CDC, when you wear a mask, you protect others‚ like the elderly, as well as yourself. Some speakers threatened the district with legal action if they put a mask mandate in place.

“I can tell you myself, I will take legal action against everyone up here. That’s all I have to say.”

Homeschooled high school senior Jesse Castrinos wants parents to have the choice when it comes to wearing a mask.

“I as a high school have to take multiple tests to apply to college such as the ACT and the SAT to go to college and I have to go into public schools to take those tests. What I don’t want is the government interfering with our healthcare system mandating masks for students when I think it should be the parent’s choice,” said Castrinos.

Christina Roberts has four children in district schools - three of them are living with autism. She believes a masking requirement is the only way to keep children safe.

“I was given the privilege to be their mom and it’s a privilege, it’s not a right and because it’s a privilege, my privilege is to protect them. If I am supposed to wear this is to protect them, then that’s what I am going to do,” said Roberts.

You can watch the full board meeting below:

A school district near Colombia has filed an injunction with the South Carolina Supreme Court about the state proviso that doesn’t allow school districts to mandate masks. After several hours of listening to public comment and legal advice about possibly going against that proviso, the board decided to wait until the Court makes a decision, before the schools make their own.

“Whether to wear a mask or not wear a mask, whether they are required or not in our public schools, it’s a very divisive topic,” said Christina Gwozdz, Chair of Beaufort County Board of Education. “The Supreme Court has to weigh in, because if we were to say we were putting in a mask mandate right now I think we’d bring on a lot of legal liabilities because of this proviso that’s in place.”

Gwozdz said she expects the Supreme Court decision to come sometime this week. The board will reconvene two business days after that to continue this discussion.

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