SC Supreme Court hears arguments in two school mask mandate lawsuits

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA/AP) – The Supreme Court of South Carolina listened to arguments Tuesday morning for two lawsuits related to mask mandates in schools.

The lawsuits revolved around the state legislature’s June decision to write a state budget item threatening school districts with withholding state money if they required masks.

Earlier this month, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a lawsuit challenging the city of Columbia’s emergency mask ordinance.

The Columbia City Council voted to require face coverings in all daycares, elementary and middle schools within city limits.

Attorney General Wilson argued that the budget item blocks the enforcement of mask mandates in public schools.

Richland School District Two petitioned the state Supreme Court to temporarily block the one-year state law banning mask mandates in public schools.

Lawyers for the city and district argued that a mask prohibition doesn’t belong in the state budget as state law requires legislation to have one clear subject.

Attorney Chris Kenney said, “Mask mandates have nothing to do with the Appropriations Act. It is not in furtherance or rationally connected to the raising or spending of money.”

Attorneys for the state said lawmakers can ban or allow masks because state funds pay for the salaries of teachers enforcing such mandates.

Deputy Solicitor General Emory Smith Jr. told justices, It’ll fine the principal, assistant principal, teachers, other staff involved, potentially school board members. Any of them. This would be forcing them to follow their ordinance or be fined. That would be contrary to the proviso.”

Justices adjourned Tuesday without making a ruling.

(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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