College of Charleston trustees voted unanimously to direct the school’s president to draw up a new mask requirement late Tuesday. The move came hours after the South Carolina Supreme Court published an opinion contradicting state Attorney General Alan Wilson, who said a University of South Carolina mask requirement went against a state budget proviso.
The new requirement takes effect immediately and applies “to all members of the campus community, regardless of vaccination status, while around others indoors in all of its campus facilities, including classrooms and laboratories,” the school said in a statement. The policy will be reviewed on a monthly basis.
During the emergency meeting Tuesday afternoon, members of the CofC Board of Trustees met via Zoom for 40 minutes, 30 of which was spent in executive session. President Andrew Hsu requested the group meet in private immediately after calling the meeting to order to consider a legal matter. Once the group returned, a motion directed Hsu to craft a new mask requirement “in light of today’s South Carolina Supreme Court decision.”
A Tuesday afternoon opinion published by the court rejected interpretations by state Attorney General Alan Wilson that a state budget proviso would prohibit state colleges from enacting mask mandates. The two-sentence item folded into the state budget says vaccinations cannot be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to be on campus without a mask, but makes no mention of universal mask requirements.
“Despite the fact that the proviso is, as stated by the Attorney General, ‘inartfully worded’ and ‘very poorly written,’ the proviso clearly does not not prohibit a universal mask mandate,” the justices wrote.
With classes returning this week across the state while COVID-19 cases also continue to rise, state educators and politicians are scrambling to ensure school safety, even in defiance of state officials and under threat of litigation. Charleston schools leaders passed a requirement for local schools Monday and Charleston City Council is set to consider a similar measure Tuesday.
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 1,991 confirmed cases of COVID-19 Tuesday.
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