Sep 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Judge temporarily blocks South Carolina ban on school mask mandates

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South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. Photo: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked South Carolina's ban on mask mandates in schools, ruling that it discriminated against students with disabilities and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Why it matters: As mask bans extend to public schools around the country, parents and disability rights activists have sounded alarm bells. The ruling may signal the outcomes of legal fights playing out across the country.

Details: A group of parents of students with disabilities, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the governor last month over the ban.

  • U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis granted a request to block the ban, ruling that the state's budget provision prohibited it.
  • "No one can reasonably argue that it is an undue burden to wear a mask to accommodate a child with disabilities," Lewis wrote in her decision.
  • "The same legal authority requiring schools to have [wheelchair accessible] ramps requires that school districts have the option to compel people to wear masks at school," the judge continued.

What they're saying: "I am thankful that the Court was able to cut through the political rhetoric and ensure that South Carolina parents no longer have to choose between their child's health and education," ACLU of South Carolina director of legal advocacy Allen Chaney said in a statement.

  • The office of Gov. Henry McMaster released a statement saying: "[T]he governor strongly disagrees with the court’s decision and will defend a parent's right to decide what's best for their children up to the United States Supreme Court, if necessary."

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