South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) issued an executive order Tuesday allowing parents to immediately opt children out of wearing masks in schools.
Governor Henry McMaster issued Executive Order 2021-23, which empowers South Carolina parents to decide whether their children should wear masks in public schools throughout the state.
The governor’s order also explicitly prohibits any county or local governments in the state from relying on prior orders or using a state of emergency as the basis for a local mask mandate and bars all state agencies, local governments, and political subdivisions from requiring what has commonly been referred to as “vaccine passports” for any reason.
With regard to mask requirements in public schools, the governor has directed DHEC – in consultation with the S.C. Department of Education – 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.
“We have known for months that our schools are some of the safest places when it comes to COVID-19,” McMaster said.
“With every adult in our state having the opportunity to receive a vaccine, it goes against all logic to continue to force our children – especially our youngest children – to wear masks against their parents’ wishes,” he continued.
“Whether a child wears a mask in school is a decision that should be left only to a student’s parents.”
According to the executive order, McMaster continued to “encourage” South Carolinians to wear a face covering and get vaccinated.
McMaster’s order prohibited “any agency, department, official, or employee of the State of South Carolina, or any political subdivision thereof, from adopting or enforcing any order” related to passports.
The governor has said the idea of vaccine passports is “un-American to its core.”
The executive order prohibits local health departments or units of government from using previous orders to justify new regulations.
“With the COVID-19 vaccine readily available and case numbers dropping, I will not allow local governments to use the state of emergency declaration as a reason for implementing or maintaining mask mandates,” McMaster said.
“Everybody knows what we need to do to stay safe – including wearing a mask if you’re at risk of exposing others – but we must move past the time of governments dictating when and where South Carolinians are required to wear a mask,” the governor said.
“Maintaining the status quo ignores all of the great progress we’ve made.”