DHEC releases opt-out form for face masks in schools

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DHEC

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on Wednesday made available a facemask opt-out form that schools must use in response to Governor Henry McMaster’s executive order.

That order “empowers South Carolina parents to decide whether their children should wear masks in public schools throughout the state.”

Gov. McMaster said that since all adults are eligible to be vaccinated, “it goes against all logic to continue to force our children — especially our youngest children — to wear masks against their parent’s wishes.”

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the South Carolina Department of Education were directed “to develop and distribute a standardized form a parent or legal guardian may sign to opt their child out of mask requirements imposed by any public school official or public school district.”

To be valid, DHEC says the form must be completed without change by the parent or guardian (or student, if age 18 or older).

“DHEC’s recommendations regarding COVID-19 precautions, including wearing face masks, have not changed,” the agency said. “Wearing face masks and taking other precautions are important disease prevention methods that protect not only the person wearing the mask but also those around them.”

DHEC said it will follow CDC guidance, which is backed by multiple research studies, that masks are an effective and essential tool for protecting the health of all South Carolinians during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

They recommend all students, staff, and others in schools continue to wear masks through the end of the current school year.

Below is a statement the SC Dept. of Education issued to South Carolina school districts regarding McMaster’s executive order:

District Superintendents,

After a thorough legal review of Executive Order 2021-23, the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) finds no legal grounds by which the Governor can set aside a policy and regulatory directive issued by another constitutional officer or constitutional board whose power is not derived from the state of emergency nor the Executive Branch but by the South Carolina Constitution and Code of Laws. This power is reserved solely for the South Carolina General Assembly. The Governor thoroughly understands the rule of law and surely recognizes this but has been successful in his mission of circumventing public health guidance by inciting hysteria and sowing division in the waning days of the school year.

Rather than wage a debate over constitutionality that would pit elected officials, students, and families against one another, Superintendent Spearman has, effective immediately, rescinded the state face covering policy with the exception of the school bus requirement that is now required by the federal government. The SCDE recommends school boards and administrators confer with their legal counsel as to what liability protections, if any, are provided by DHEC’s opt out form. Superintendent Spearman and the SCDE continue to urge schools and districts to follow DHEC’s public health guidance as they have throughout the pandemic.

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