Sumter school board votes down mask requirement 5-4


As a national debate on the issue continues, Sumter School District’s Board of Trustees decided Monday night to not require that face masks be worn by students and teachers in schools.

In a split 5-4 vote, trustees voting for the motion, favoring a requirement, included Brian Alston, Johnny Hilton, Shawn Ragin and Gloria Lee. Board members voting down the motion included Chairwoman Barbara Jackson, Frank Baker, Daryl McGhaney, Matthew “Mac” McLeod and Sherril Ray.

Masks have been a point of contention as schools across the U.S. and state reopen amid rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. In South Carolina, a budget proviso from the General Assembly prohibits school districts from using public funds to implement a mask mandate or risk their funding being impacted.

For nearly one hour in open session (58 minutes), board members discussed masks and other safety protocols in schools amid the surge in COVID-19 with the state budget rule coming up multiple times.

After receiving legal counsel in executive session behind closed doors, the board returned to open session shortly after 10 p.m. and later voted on the matter.

When contacted Tuesday morning by The Sumter Item for comment, Jackson – the board chair – only emailed through a district spokeswoman that the board had a thorough discussion in open session on the agenda item and that “trustees voted their convictions.”

She declined further comment.

On Tuesday afternoon, The Item was attempting to contact the board’s legal counsel for additional explanation.

Read Wednesday's edition for a complete story.