AG’s mask lawsuit against Columbia to go to SC Supreme Court



Supreme Court of South Carolina

The South Carolina Supreme Court will consider the lawsuit of Republican State Attorney General Alan Wilson against the City of Columbia mask warrant for elementary and middle schools.

Wilson filed a lawsuit Aug. 19 and sought original jurisdiction with the state’s Supreme Court, a ruling that attempts to bypass the lower court system. On Monday, the state’s highest court said it would accept the attorney general’s lawsuit.

“We grant the original jurisdiction request and the request to expedite consideration of this case,” the state Supreme Court said in the order. The court will hear oral arguments on the case at 10 a.m. on August 31.

The order noted that the city of Columbia had consented to the state Supreme Court taking the case directly and the case being expedited. The order also said the state municipal association, the City of Charleston and the South Carolina Education Association would file additional submissions in the case.

Columbia City Council recently passed a measure that requires students and teachers at 43 elementary and secondary schools and daycares in the city to wear masks, as cases of COVID-19 rose sharply in South Carolina last month . The city’s move came despite a one-year law, called a conditional clause, put in the state budget by lawmakers, which prevents schools from spending state funds on mask mandates.

The one-year budget law reads: “No school district, or any of its schools, may use funds allocated or authorized under this law to require its students and / or employees to wear face masks in their homes. one of its educational institutions. This prohibition extends to the announcement or application of such a policy.

Wilson lawsuit says attorney general wants state Supreme Court to “resolve a dispute over the supervisory effect of a legislative provision regarding mask requirements so that all jurisdictions are aware of the law which governs ”.

The attorney general’s office said in an Aug. 19 statement that it intended the lawsuit “to apply to all towns, cities, counties and school boards that have adopted or are seeking to pass mask warrants.” .

Richland County Council also passed an ordinance requiring elementary and middle schools in unincorporated areas of the county to require masks for students and teachers. The Richland School District One board also voted to require masks in schools.

The attorney general insisted that the state’s one-year law is clear when it comes to K-12 schools.

“While we recognize that the city is acting out of genuine concern for the spread of the COVID-19 virus and its variants, it cannot do so contrary to the law of this state,” the lawsuit said. “The condition is pretty clear that masks are not to be government mandated for schools in this state. “

City officials, meanwhile, said they have a constitutional right to protect young people. People under the age of 12 are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We need the Supreme Court to rule on this, and I’m sure the Supreme Court will support our position that it is both a constitutional and statutory right for municipal governments to protect health. and the safety of their citizens, ”said Columbia city councilor. Howard Duvall, the former director of the state Municipal Association, said Aug. 19.

Monday, the Ministry of Health and Environmental Control of the State announced 3,648 new cases of COVID throughout the state.

Chris Trainor has worked for newspapers in South Carolina for over 16 years, including previous appearances at (Greenwood) Index-Journal and (Columbia) Free Times. He is the recipient of numerous South Carolina Press Association awards including accolades in column writing, government reporting, profile writing, food writing, election coverage and more.

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