Two-thirds of Aiken County parents support mask mandate, survey finds

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 11:16 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - After teacher protests, thousands of quarantined students and at least two student COVID deaths in Aiken County, the school district sent out a survey to find out what parents really want. More than 11,000 parents weighed in.

The survey asked about two things: masks and vaccines.

About 37 percent support a vaccine mandate, and roughly two-thirds of parents support a mask mandate. We spoke to the school board chairman, and he didn’t expect this many would want one.

“I shouldn’t be put in a position where I have to be an outlaw in order to do the right thing,” said Dr. John Bradley, Aiken County Board of Education chairman.

Bradley wasn’t expecting a two-thirds majority. Even though he wants to mandate masks, he won’t because of a South Carolina budget stipulation that keeps school districts from doing so.

“I think that the power of the school board is being usurped to a degree,” he said.

So does the board. Bradley says they’re sending the state Legislature a resolution saying this should be a local decision.

“Whether it moves anyone in Columbia to do anything differently, I personally don’t think it will have any impact,” he said.

State Rep. Bart Blackwell is a Republican representing the Aiken area, and he agrees with the school board. He thinks it should be a local decision. But since the Legislature is not in session, Blackwell says it would be difficult to change the law.

“As it stands right now, I don’t think we’re gonna be taking that up again,” he said.

And that has school leaders frustrated.

“When the incidence of COVID is as high as it is, I think if they really ... if the leadership of the Legislature wanted to do anything about it, they could,” said Bradley.

But if they don’t, Bradley doesn’t think the board will pass a mask mandate even if two-thirds of parents want one.

School district leaders say they made the survey available for a little over 24 hours last week. They sent it out to about 33,000 people. More than 11,000 responded.

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