Gov. McMaster says Charleston County schools should not use school resource officers to enforce its mask mandate


FILE – In this July 15, 2021 file photo, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster listens as Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. CEO Lou Kennedy speaks during a news conference in West Columbia, S.C. A leading anti-abortion group has picked McMaster as its first state-level endorsement in next year’s elections. The organization tells The Associated Press, Tuesday, Aug. 10, that it’s part of a broader strategy to seed top jobs with abortion opponents as the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to give states more power over the issue. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard, File)

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) — Governor Henry McMaster sent a letter to the Charleston County School District’s (CCSD) board of trustees regarding their mask mandate enforcement.

CCSD board members announced last week they would begin enforcing the district’s mask mandate for students, staff, and visitors beginning Sept. 20. Enforcement began with warnings issued Monday and Tuesday and unmasked students unable to attend in-person classes beginning Wednesday.

A short video clip began circulating online involving a parent who was told they could not leave their children at school if they were not wearing a mask. It happened at James B. Edwards Elementary school in Mount Pleasant.

In the video, the officer is telling a parent that he cannot leave the children at the school if they are unmasked. “The officer became involved after the parent was asked to leave by school staff due to the children not wearing masks,” police said.

Officials say if a parent abandons a child in any situation, notifications can be made to the Department of Social Services so arrangements can be made for the child’s safety.

They say the video that was shared did not include the entire interaction.

“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 Gov. Henry McMaster in the letter addressed to Rev. Eric Mack and the board of trustees.

McMaster said South Carolina is “blessed to have the finest law enforcement organizations in the nation” and “Our state’s school resource officers are members of these outstanding organizations.”

In the letter, McMaster said his proposal to place a school resource officer in every school was recently embraced and fully funded by the General Assembly.

“In addition to ensuring that our children and teachers are in a safe and secure learning environment, these officers play a vital role in keeping their communities say,” he said.

He went on to say, “A school resource officer is usually the first law enforcement officer with whom a young child comes in direct contact with. That child’s life-long perception of law enforcement can be shaped by that initial encounter and reinforced by future encounters.”

He is now asking the Charleston County School District to end the use of school resource officers to enforce the district’s mandatory mask mandate.

The situation at James B. Edwards Elementary was handled administratively between the parents and the Charleston County School District, according to Mount Pleasant Police. They said the children were taken home by a parent.

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