A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order Tuesday on the state’s one-year law aimed at preventing school districts from mandating masks be worn to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s a decision the state’s attorney general says he will appeal.
Judge Mary Geiger Lewis said in her order that the provision included in this year’s budget discriminates against children with disabilities and is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal laws.
“It is noncontroversial that children need to go to school,” Lewis wrote. “And, they are entitled to any reasonable accommodation that allows them to do so. No one can reasonably argue that it is an undue burden to wear a mask to accommodate a child with disabilities.”
Earlier this year, state lawmakers included a provision in the budget that prohibits school districts from using state money to enforce a mask mandate.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit last month on behalf of Disability Rights South Carolina, Able South Carolina and a group of parents with disabled children. The lawsuit says the provision that bans mask requirements can lead to children who are particularly susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19 being excluded from public schools.
The lawsuit named Gov. Henry McMaster, Attorney General Alan Wilson, State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman and several school boards as defendants.
Lewis’ order prohibits the named defendants from enforcing the one-year law.
“We disagree with the judge’s position and we plan to appeal,” Wilson said in a statement on Wednesday.
McMaster has repeatedly said he believes it should be up to parents to decide whether their children should wear masks in schools.
“The governor strongly disagrees with the court’s decision and will fight the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary,” said McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes.
Spearman has said she wants wants local school boards to make the decision on whether there should be be mask mandates in their districts.
Reporter Emily Bohatch contributed to this article.