FILE - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson

(The Center Square) – South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson is suing the city of Columbia in the state supreme court over the city’s mask mandate in schools.

Wilson brought the lawsuit Thursday.

“The lawsuit does not question whether masks are effective or a good idea but is based on the importance of following state law,” a Wilson press release read. “Attorney General Wilson encourages everyone to wear masks when appropriate and encourages anyone who can to get the COVID vaccination. However, the General Assembly passed a budget proviso that prohibits schools or school districts from requiring masks.”

Columbia recently implemented the mandate, but Wilson believes it does not follow the proviso, which reads, “No school district, or any of its schools, may use any funds appropriated or authorized pursuant to this act to require that its students and/or employees wear a facemask at any of its education facilities. This prohibition extends to the announcement or enforcement of any such policy.”

The city, however, believes the proviso is unconstitutional.

The state Supreme Court recently ruled the University of South Carolina had the right to issue a mask mandate based on the wording of a relevant proviso, which did not prevent the action.

Department of Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said Tuesday she believes school districts should have the right to enforce mask mandates for the safety of students and teachers but to resolve the issues, the Legislature will have to come back into session or the dispute will need to be settled in court.

In a July 6 letter to school superintendents, however, Spearman noted that the new proviso prevented mask mandates.

“The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) interprets the above language to mean that school districts are prohibited from requiring students and employees to wear a facemask while in any of its educational facilities for the 2021-22 school year,” the memo said. “Educational facilities include all property owned and operated by the individual district.”