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Press Release

The SCEA Responds to Decision by South Carolina Supreme Court

Today the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a disappointing decision in the State of South Carolina v. City of Columbia, denying the right of municipalities to enact and enforce mask mandates in public schools.
a picture of the SC Supreme Court Building
Published: 09/02/2021

Key Takeaways

  1. In a decision released today, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the City of Columbia's mask mandate for schools.
  2. The Supreme Court reached this decision because the mandate is in conflict with the state's mask mandate ban in Proviso 1.108 passed in the 2021 budget.
  3. The Richland 2 Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of the Proviso is still outstanding.

COLUMBIA — Today the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a disappointing decision in the State of South Carolina v. City of Columbia, denying the right of municipalities to enact and enforce mask mandates in South Carolina’s public schools due to the mask mandate ban in Proviso 1.108.

The Richland 2 Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of the Proviso is still outstanding.

“I had hoped for a different decision,” The South Carolina Education Association (The SCEA) President Sherry East said. “The SCEA affirms and advocates for the right of all children in South Carolina and all staff to learn and work in a safe environment, free from fear of exposure to unnecessary risks.”

The rapid spread of COVID-19 threatens this right and has caused thousands of quarantines and several districts to go virtual. Therefore, The SCEA calls on legislators to provide districts with the freedom they need to make the best possible decisions for their local communities.

“Our children should never be used as political pawns,” East said. “It is nauseating to think that children are collateral in a political game. Decisions need to be made that put children first.”

In addition to empowering districts to enact mask mandates, The SCEA calls on legislators to allow districts the discretion to determine enrollment numbers for virtual learning and the number of virtual learning days necessary throughout the year.

Furthermore, the legislature must act quickly to provide funding for emergency COVID leave days in the event a teacher must quarantine or contracts COVID-19.

The SCEA urges members and the public to answer The SCEA’s call to action and to insist the legislature prioritize the safety of our students, families, and educators. Furthermore, members and the public should do all they can to slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools and communities.

“Cases are skyrocketing. Healthcare officials and educators are begging for help,” East said. “Why isn’t the Governor listening? How many more will die before politicians do the right thing?”

For more information about mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and the Delta variant in schools, read the recommendations of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) here.

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The SCEA is an affiliate of the largest professional association of educators in the country. As the leading advocate for the schools South Carolina students deserve, The SCEA works to promote quality public education and to support public school employees.