Sumter school board passes mask mandate, 7-2


Sumter School District will have a facemask mandate starting Monday for students and staff after the district’s Board of Trustees voted 7-2 to pass an emergency measure, given COVID-19, on Thursday night.  

A federal ruling Tuesday paved the way for school districts in South Carolina to be allowed to mandate masks. The ruling suspended the state from enforcing a ban on mask mandates.  The South Carolina Supreme Court disagreed in another ruling on Thursday, but federal law trumps state law.

In light of the federal ruling,  the local board called the special meeting and implemented the mandate with the vote about 6:02 p.m. Thursday. 

Trustees voting in favor of the mask requirement included Johnny Hilton, Chairwoman Barbara Jackson, Frank Baker, Daryl McGhaney, Brian Alston, Gloria Lee and Shawn Ragin. The two board members voting against the mandate were Matthew “Mac” McLeod and Sherril Ray.

In the board discussion and following the meeting, Superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox said facemasks are needed to minimize the spread of the virus and also minimize student quarantines that are disruptive to the learning process.  

Based on the board’s discussion, mask enforcement seemed to be the concern with McLeod and Ray.  

After the meeting, Martin-Knox said the mandate will be used as a tool, similar to the student dress attire policy, and every effort will be made to transition through procedures without disciplining children or implementing a punitive approach.  

“But, we do want our community to ensure that our students are safe,” she said, “so, again, the more students we have wearing masks, the more opportunities we have to minimize the quarantining.”