South Carolina groups say school mask ban disrupts children’s learning


The Associated Press / Report for America

COLUMBIA – As South Carolina Supreme Court reviews legality of state rule that effectively bans masks in most schools, healthcare workers and educators renew appeals to state lawmakers to completely repeal the provision.

Pediatricians and school nurses joined state education groups at a press conference on Tuesday to warn that inaction by lawmakers will only hamper in-person learning, as more than 88,000 students and staff members have been forced into self-quarantine and dozens of schools have returned to online classes since the start of the school year.

The Republican-controlled legislature put the one-year provision, which prevents school districts from using state money to enforce a rule requiring masks, in the state budget earlier this year . The state was recording an average of 150 cases of COVID-19 per day at the time.

But in the following months, a new wave driven by the highly contagious delta variant triggered thousands of new cases. Schools have registered more than 21,000 student cases this fall so far, nearly 7,000 more than the entire previous school year.

“We want to be sure that decision makers are no longer using yesterday’s information to make decisions today,” said Dr. Robert Saul, president of the South Carolina chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. .

The state’s Republican superintendent of education, bipartisan groups of lawmakers, doctors and nurses, the state’s Parents Association and several groups of teachers have all opposed the provision. of the state mask, saying it is preventing locally elected school boards from deploying an essential tool to limit the spread of the virus.

In addition to the state Supreme Court case, disability rights groups and parents of disabled children have also challenged the law in Federal Court.

But every day the courts take to review cases is another day of disrupted learning for students and extra work for school staff, said Sherry East, president of the South Carolina Education Association.

“We really can’t take another day to decide on this,” East said. “We are waiting for the Supreme Court to make a decision when we can handle this in Colombia.”

Major lawmakers have so far resisted calls to address the subject of masks. Senators will return to Colombia next month for a special session on federal COVID-19 relief spending and redistribution. House leaders have not said whether they plan to have a special session this fall.

A recent survey of nearly 13,000 households in Lexington County School District 1 found that nearly 70% of parents agreed that the school board should consider requirements for temporary masks in the event of heavy spread in the area. community, Superintendent Gregory Little said Tuesday.

Little said that while the increase in the number of cases is starting to decline, it is not yet clear what the district’s benchmark cases will look like throughout the year.

The superintendent described the “revolving door” of students in quarantine over the weeks as “incredibly taxing and frustrating” for teachers.

Some districts that have defied state law to enact their own mask requirements are now facing their own lawsuits. Last week, a group of parents sued the Charleston County School District over its mask rule in state court, media reported. The Richland One school district faces a similar lawsuit.

On Tuesday, 30 children were hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the South Carolina Children’s Hospital Collaborative. Nine of these patients were in intensive care and five on ventilators.

Some children are so sick that they needed ECMO, a machine that takes control of the lungs to add oxygen to the blood, doctors said. Three South Carolina students have died from the virus this school year.

“At a time when misinformation about COVID is more contagious than COVID, our children’s hospitals are overwhelmed,” said pediatrician Dr Deborah Greenhouse.


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