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South Carolina officials want to pull out of mask mandate ban suit


South Carolina officials who have been sued over a law banning the issuance of face masks in school districts say they should be dropped pending trial

South Carolina officials who have been sued over a law banning the issuance of face masks in school districts say they should be dropped pending trial.

Henry McMaster, Attorney General Alan Wilson and others being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of disabled rights groups and parents of children with disabilities in South Carolina made the same argument in recent court filings. Is. The plaintiffs are challenging a budget measure passed this summer that bars South Carolina districts from using any state funding to require masks in schools.

The lawsuit deals with a renewed COVID-19 boom as South Carolina, which is powered by Delta Edition and has a vaccination rate of just under 50% of eligible residents. Intensive care units in both adult and children’s hospitals are full, and there have been more than 750 deaths in the first half of September. The average new cases reported daily is still around 4,500 – a level only exceeded during the peak of winter, before vaccines were widely available.

The resurgence has forced many schools and two entire districts to switch to online learning within a month of returning in person. Some districts and cities have defied the ban, moving forward with enforcing their requirements.

Such was the move this week by the state’s second-largest school district, which voted Tuesday to begin implementing its own masking requirement, using federal funds to implement the policy for its 48,000 students. planned to use. Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court revoked Columbia’s school mask mandate for very young children, following a lawsuit from Wilson.

The ACLU suit alleges that the mask mandate ban disproportionately affects students with underlying health conditions or disabilities who are at risk of becoming seriously ill if contracted COVID-19 in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act. There is a risk that public schools may not exclude students with disabilities or unnecessarily isolate them from their peers.

Schools are also required to provide appropriate amendments to allow students with disabilities to fully participate.

Last month, the plaintiffs filed for a temporary restraining order to stop the law from being enforced, with attorneys arguing that state officials are “illegally coercing South Carolina families who have disabled children into their children.” to choose between their education and their child’s health and safety.”

McMaster’s lawyers said the ACLU and its clients “cannot sue merely over their policy preferences or go to court over their disagreement with decisions made by their representatives in the General Assembly.”

McMaster’s lawyers also noted that the governor has “consistently encouraged South Carolinians to heed public health guidance, including the wearing of masks in public settings where it is not possible to practice social distancing, and that they have qualified and Interested persons are encouraged to get vaccinated.”

Wilson also filed a memorandum opposing the request for a restraining order, but also argued that he should not have been named in the trial, as “he played no role in any of the alleged violations of the statutes in question.”

Lawyers for several school districts argued that the injunction request “does not imply the existence of immediate and irreparable injury in connection with the school board’s defendants’ educational programs.” In a separate brief, the lawyers wrote that Education Superintendent Molly Spearman “takes no firm position on the issues” and will “continue to properly discharge the duties” of her office.

In a response, ACLU attorneys wrote that, in their filings, defendants “who engage with the substance of the arguments—notably the governor and attorney general—confirm that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on merit.” “

McMaster, who has called the lawsuit’s arguments “completely false”, has repeatedly said that parents alone should decide whether children wear masks to schools and South Carolinians from COVID-19. 19, although children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible.

McMaster said Tuesday, “The only thing we can do about it is get people informed, tell them what works, what doesn’t work, and help them make the best decisions for their families, their lives.” Give.”

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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Meg Kinnard can be contacted at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.

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