Several students in South Carolina’s second-largest school district were sent home Wednesday for not complying with a mask mandate aimed at mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.
Fifteen students at Thomas C. Cario Middle School in the Charleston County School District (CCSD) will continue their learning remotely until at least October 15 – which is when administrators will revisit the mask policy, district spokesperson Andy Pruitt told CNN.
In addition, students at other schools were also sent home, though Pruitt didn’t specify how many.
Some parents gathered outside the middle school to protest the students being sent home over not adhering to the mask requirement, he said.
The school district’s Board of Trustees voted last week to require everyone to wear a face covering in all CCSD schools and properties as well as on school transportation. The district has about 49,000 students in 88 schools and specialized programs, according to the district’s website.
“It remains our collective opinion that wearing facemasks in school is an essential health and safety measure. Just that simple act of each of us will help prevent severe illness or death from COVID and reduce the number of students who are forced to quarantine,” the Board of Trustees said at the time of its vote.
The policy became effective September 20, but it wasn’t fully enforced until Wednesday.
With the prevalence of the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended in July that students from kindergarten through grade 12 wear masks in school. The American Academy of Pediatrics also moved to recommend masks in schools for everyone over age 2.
Mask mandates in schools have become a polarizing issue– especially in states including Texas and Florida, where legal battles have occurred between local and state officials.
In addition, the US Department of Education announced last month that it had sent letters to chief state school officials in five states – Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah – notifying them of new directed investigations into whether their state mask restrictions prevented students with disabilities from “safely returning to in-person education, in violation of Federal law.”
The Covid-19 transmission level in South Carolina is high, according to the CDC, which defines that category as having 100 or more cases per 100,000 people or a positivity rate of 10% or higher over a 7-day period.
Charleston County has fully vaccinated 63.1% of its total eligible population, according to the CDC.
CNN’s Liz Stark contributed to this report.