Educators urge state legislators to reconsider ban on mask mandates in schools

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — In South Carolina, state law prohibits school districts from enforcing mask mandates as well as limits the amount of students allowed to learn virtually. 

Tuesday, educators and other leaders in teaching called on the state legislature to reconvene and repeal these laws.

“By not allowing districts to not make masking and safety decisions, the legislators are responsible for the interruptions this has caused in our day-to-day operations,” said high school teacher Sherry East.

Many school districts across the state have had to revert to remote learning at some point this fall semester.

“We want our children back in schools but if we want our children to stay in schools, we must take the measures to keep them healthy and safe. We want to be sure the policymakers are no longer using yesterday’s information to make decisions. We want them to use today’s information to make today’s decisions,” said Dr. Robert Saul, South Carolina chapter president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

One of those decisions educators would like to make is the ability to enforce a mask mandate.

“Until enough people are vaccinated, it is of the utmost importance that we use a multilayered approach,” said school nurse Patricia Ulch.

They believe that individual school districts should make the decision on masks.

Lexington One Superintendent Greg Little states that according to a recent poll taken. Almost 70 percent of the district’s parents supported masks in order to keep their kids safe and in the classroom.

“We need to make sure we have the tools available to do that,” said Little. “When our car is broken, we don’t call the mechanic and say ‘We want you to fix our car but bring half your toolset.’”

The governor has stated his opposition to mask mandates saying that they disrupt learning.

“Scientific studies demonstrate that masks do not cause negative effects on mental health or learning,” said pediatrician Dr. Debbie Greenhouse.

Dr. Greenhouse also adds that COVID is causing negative impacts on children.

“Our primary care pediatricians are overwhelmed and struggling to keep up with the number of sick kids in South Carolina.” she said.

She reports that currently 30 kids in South Carolina are hospitalized with COVID, nine in ICU, three on ECMO life support machines. She says none have been vaccinated.

It’s not just doctors who are facing burnout but also teachers.

“The ongoing stress and demands associated with this work is driving talented educators out of the profession and increasing our teacher shortage crisis,” said Kathy Maness, director of Palmetto State Teachers Association. 

Democrat state lawmakers have called on the general assembly to hold an emergency session to discuss repealing the state laws that prohibit mask mandates, but so far have yet to do so.

Categories: Local News, Richland