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SC gov asks county not to use school resource officers to enforce mask mandate

The "aggressive use of school resource officers may inadvertently create unhealthy, erroneous and negative stereotypes of law enforcement officers, especially among our young children," Gov. Henry McMaster wrote to the head of Charleston County's school board.

Updated: September 26, 2021 - 11:16pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

A videotaped encounter between a school resource officer and a parent at James B. Edwards Elementary in Mount Pleasant, S.C. has led South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster to ask the Charleston County School District not to use officers to enforce the district's mask mandate.

The officer can be heard in the video saying he would have to call DSS (Department of Social Services) if the children were left at the school without masks.

"Among other things, I am concerned that the district's aggressive use of school resource officers may inadvertently create unhealthy, erroneous and negative stereotypes of law enforcement officers, especially among our young children," said McMaster's letter to Eric Mack, the head of Charleston County's school board.

The Mount Pleasant Police Department, which employs Officer Ransom Walters, who it identified as the officer in the video, said that "the officer became involved after the parent was asked to leave by school staff due to the children not wearing masks."

Charleston County schools spokesperson Andrew Pruitt said Friday, "I can confirm our district has not asked any of the school resource officers who serve in our schools nor any of our law enforcement partners to enforce the Board's mask requirement."

At a special board meeting Sept. 13, the school district voted to enforce the mask mandate between Sept. 20 and Oct. 15, despite a state proviso against mask mandates this school year.

"It remains our collective opinion that wearing facemasks in school is an essential health and safety measure," a statement from the school board said. "Just that simple act of each of us will help prevent severe illness or death from COVID and reduce the number of students who are forced to quarantine."

CNN reported 15 students from one Charleston County school were sent home for not wearing masks and would remain home for remote schooling through Oct. 15. Pruitt said Friday he did not have an updated number of students who were kept out of school for not wearing a mask.

"Our officer was explaining to the parent that they needed to leave at the request of the school staff and the children could not be left at the school," Mount Pleasant police said. "If the parent left the children, then DSS would be called because of the children being left unattended at the school. The situation was handled administratively between the parents and Charleston County School District and the children were taken home by a parent."

Since school districts are prevented from using state funds to enforce mask mandates, Charleston County schools said it would use federal funds for that purpose.

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