Jasper Co. School Board votes to require masks in school

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 10:38 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 11, 2021 at 11:17 PM EDT
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JASPER COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - The Jasper County School Board voted Monday night to require everyone on school campuses to wear a mask.

This follows a federal block on Governor Henry McMaster’s mask ban in schools.

The ruling came down from a federal Judge after the ACLU of South Carolina filed a lawsuit claiming the mask ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The judge called the governor’s proviso a “barrier” for students with disabilities wishing to gain the same education as those children without disabilities.

This decision is a big deal for Jasper County given the governor’s mask stance this school year. Students and faculty will wake up Tuesday and they will be required to wear a mask on school grounds regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated.

The vote Monday night was unanimous with several board members voicing their support for all district employees and anyone on school grounds to wear a mask. The district started the school year suggesting students wear a mask and the district had to go virtual for two weeks because of a rise in COVID cases. They were already requiring unvaccinated faculty and staff to wear a mask or test weekly for the virus, but with this new policy everyone will follow the same rules.

“We have the rights to secure the safety of our children,” said board chair Carolyn Bolden.

“It’s our responsibility to protect our children in this district. And according to the CDC, the two ways to do those are social distancing and wearing a mask along with the vaccine. And since they’re too young to get the vaccine, then the next two steps that we need are the social distancing and a mask,” said board member Daisy Mitchell.

“We follow the recommendations by scientists when we protect not just our students, but everyone who works in the district because the child can still bring it in and adult is not masked and the adult gets sick and it spreads like wildfire,” said board member Joyce Gerald.

Superintendent Dr. Rechel Anderson says their attorneys recommended the mask policy to be done in increments.

“We would want to start off with at least 30 days and then continue that...we can come back to the board to continue that as we follow the science and the data,” said Dr. Anderson.

There was discussion about students who need a medical exemption. That will be handled on an individual basis and documentation must be provided.

The superintendent says they will follow the science and revisit this mandate after 30 days to see if it will continue.

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