Greenville County Schools is pushing back on South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster’s executive order 2021-23, which would allow parents of public school students to decide whether their child should wear a mask at school.
“We have known for months that our schools are some of the safest places when it comes to COVID-19,” McMaster said in a press release. “With every adult in our state having the opportunity to receive a vaccine, it goes against all logic to continue to force our children – especially our youngest children – to wear masks against their parents’ wishes. Whether a child wears a mask in school is a decision that should be left only to a student’s parents.”
McMaster has also tasked the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Department of Education with creating a form allowing a parent or guardian to opt their children out of any school district’s mask mandate.
In its response to the order, issued May 11, the district says school officials were neither given a preview nor were they asked how it might affect operations, before it was issued.
Today I issued Executive Order 2021-23, which
➡️ Empowers parents to decide if their children should wear masks at school
➡️ Prohibits local and county governments from using the state of emergency to enact mask mandates
➡️Bans vaccine passports
Read more: https://t.co/8UPcvRTKKt pic.twitter.com/xoCw3MgrY8
— Gov. Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) May 11, 2021
The district goes on to say their lawyers are reviewing the order which is “contradictory” about whether it allows or disallows mask mandates by political subdivisions and that the governor does not appear to recognize the role masks may have played in creating safe environments.
“In the meantime, GCS students will still be required to wear masks on buses, when entering and leaving buildings, and whenever six feet of social distance cannot be maintained,” the school district’s statement read.
Greenville County Schools also noted that there was no clear date that the order should go into effect. It also said that DHEC has not changed its recommendations that masks should be worn when social distancing cannot happen.
On Wednesday, May 12, the school district released another statement after its legal counsel reviewed the order, saying the district would move forward with an opt-out option.
Greenville County Schools said that the opt out would begin on Thursday, May 13 if the form has been signed by the parents or guardians and sent to the school.
The school district is also allowing those who are concerned over the order to request that their students work from home for the remainder of the school year since it is too late to be added to the virtual program. For that option, parents should submit a request to the principal of their student’s school by Monday, May 17.
“The removal of the mask mandate impacts students who are still seated in plexiglass pods. Per DHEC requirements, students seated in pods divided by plexiglass who test positive for COVID and do not mask will result in a 10-day quarantine for all other students seated in that pod. If a student in a plexiglass pod tests positive but continues to wear a mask, only unmasked students in the pod will be required to quarantine, per DHEC guidelines. These actions are required by DHEC and are not optional for districts to follow,” said the school district in its latest statement.
Students 18 and over can complete the form without parental consent.
Employees will still be required to wear face masks, according to the school district.