29 September (WNN) — A federal district judge has blocked South Carolina’s ban on masks in schools, saying it discriminates against students with disabilities.
US District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis of the US District Court for the District of South Carolina ruled Tuesday in favor of disability rights groups and parents of students with disabilities with underlying health conditions who violated the ban by sending their children to public schools. was effectively excluded. Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act.
The ban was brought about in June through a provision added to the General Appropriations Bill, which deprives schools of state funding that implement the mask mandate, and was proposed because many Republican-led states had sought to establish a similar prohibition of their own, the argument of parents taking away the mandate of their right to choose how to protect their children from the pandemic.
In her 22-page ruling on Tuesday, Lewis agreed that parents have a right to decide what is best for their children, as the plaintiffs requested that South Carolina school districts be allowed to do so. be allowed to choose whether wearing a mask is mandatory, a virus-mitigation measure recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other such organizations.
“It was not a close call,” she said. “The General Assembly’s COVID measure prohibits school districts from mandating masks … discriminates against children with disabilities.”
Lewis explained that the law preventing school districts from enforcing a mask mandate is a barrier to access to education for students with disabilities.
She said that years ago, ramps were added to schools to accommodate people with mobility-related disabilities. Today, she said, the mask mandate is akin to a ramp up for students with disabilities to access their free public education.
“It is non-controversial that children need to go to school. And they are entitled to any reasonable accommodation that allows them to do so. No one can reasonably argue that masks are meant to accommodate a child with a disability.” Wearing it is an undue burden.” she wrote.
South Carolina Department of Education said via twitter It is reviewing the decision and will provide guidance to schools and school districts on Wednesday.
Brian Sims, a spokesman for Government Henry McMaster, said in a statement that he would fight the decision.
“The governor strongly disagrees with the court’s decision and will defend the right of parents to decide what is best for their children up to the United States Supreme Court, if necessary”.
Alan Chaney, director of legal advocacy among the plaintiffs at the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, said Tuesday the law stood.
“I am grateful that the court was able to put an end to the political rhetoric and allow South Carolina parents to now choose between their child’s health and education,” Chaney said in a statement.
South Carolina is one of five states where the federal Department of Education is investigating its policies prohibiting schools from wearing masks.
Across the country, several Republican-led states such as Arkansas, Florida, Iowa and Montana have sought to ban mask mandates in schools, attracting legal challenges from school districts and parents.
The ruling in South Carolina came a day after a judge in Arizona banning the mask mandate in schools was unconstitutional because it was passed within a budget bill.