COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina's ban on mask mandates in kindergarten thru 12th grade schools was put on hold Tuesday night.
A federal judge said the proviso in South Carolina's budget discriminates against students with disabilities.
Advocates say the ban on mask mandates excludes students with disabilities and underlying medical conditions from going to school in-person, which violates federal disability rights laws.
This means starting now, school districts can make the choice if they will require masks.
For one Midlands student at high-risk of contracting COVID, her family considers this a win.
"I understand that perhaps a one-size-doesn't-fit-all situation exists, but in an elementary school setting, basically none of the students are eligible to be vaccinated. That caused me extreme stress," said Kathryn Padgett, a mother of a 4th grade student in Richland School District Two.
Padgett's 10-year-old daughter, Mallory, has autism as well as asthma.
She is too young to get vaccinated and is at high risk for contracting COVID-19 because of her medical condition.
"If she were to contract COVID, she is at a much, much greater risk of having a severe case, being hospitalized and complications," said Padgett.
Over the summer, Mallory took part in a special program Richland Two provided which addressed the educational gaps for virtual learning students.
Beginning July 1, thanks to a budget proviso by the South Carolina legislature, the Padgett Family learned masks would not be required in school.
"We unfortunately made the decision at that point to pull her out of that program," said Padgett. "We did not feel it was a safe environment for her and we felt we were being forced to choose between her health and her education."
When the federal judge's ruling was handed down Tuesday, Padgett was elated.
"I was extremely happy," she said regarding school districts' abilities to enact mask mandates now. "I feel so much more at ease knowing they can now determine what is best for those children."
She says Mallory began in-person learning this school year, and noticed the majority of families in the district send their kids to class with a mask.
This Midlands mother is grateful because she believes her daughter learns best in the classroom.
"These are the same kiddos that need additional services to help to bridge the gap they already have between their typically developing peers," said Padgett.
Health officials say the Pfizer kids vaccine could be ready within the next few weeks.
"We will be first in line."