ACLU Claims South Carolina Ban on School Mask Mandates Violates Rights

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
August 24, 2021 Updated: August 24, 2021

A civil liberties group has filed a lawsuit against South Carolina officials, asserting the state’s ban on school mask mandates violates federal laws aimed at protecting the rights of disabled Americans.

South Carolina’s legislature included a prohibition on school mask mandates in its budget, which it passed in June, and Molly Spearman, South Carolina’s education superintendent, later told each school board that because of that the school districts were barred from requiring students or employees to wear the face coverings.

That order violated the rights of students with disabilities, including those with certain underlying medical conditions that increase their risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued in a complaint lodged this week.

More specifically, the barring of school mask mandates goes against the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, the group said.

“Both federal disability rights laws prohibit outright exclusion, denial of equal access, or unnecessary segregation for students with disabilities in public education. Both laws also prohibit methods of administration that defeat the fundamental goals of public schools, that is, to provide an education. Finally, both federal disability rights laws impose affirmative obligations on covered entities to proactively provide reasonable modifications or reasonable accommodations to ensure that individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from their public education,” their lawsuit stated.

The group noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends masking in schools, even though many other countries have forgone masking children because they’re at low-risk of contracting serious cases of COVID-19. They cited a collaborative that said recently that data from 100 school districts in North Carolina experienced low COVID-19 transmission when masking was in place.

“This finding strengthens CDC’s claim that ‘when teachers, staff, and students consistently and correctly wear a mask, they protect others as well as themselves,'” the suit stated.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, both Republicans, were among the defendants named.

Epoch Times Photo
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks at a press conference in Columbia, S.C., on Aug. 9, 2021. (Jeffrey Collins/AP Photo)

Plaintiffs asked the federal district court in South Carolina to block defendants from barring school districts from requiring masks.

Plaintiffs include Amanda McDougald Scott, a mother in Greenville County whose child has asthma, and Michelle Finney, a mother in Dorchester whose child has Renpenning syndrome.

Scott yanked her child from public school because of its failure to follow CDC guidance regarding masking, according to the suit. Finney is keeping her child at home for now because his high school cannot require masks.

Wilson could not be reached for comment.

“While we don’t comment on specific litigation, the only truly inclusive option is to allow every parent to decide whether their child will wear a mask in school. That’s exactly what the General Assembly’s budget proviso does in South Carolina,” Brian Symmes, a spokesman for McMaster, told The Epoch Times via email.

Seven other states have banned school mask mandates, including Florida, Texas, and Iowa.

Another 10 states require masks in schools. They include California, Hawaii, and New Jersey.

The rest have neither banned mandates or imposed them.

Several court rulings have come down in lawsuits dealing with the requirements.

The Texas Supreme Court last week said schools could require masks while an appeal on a lower court ruling is decided. And a judge in Arkansas earlier this month temporarily blocked Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s ban on school mask mandates until the case is concluded.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.