U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn is expected to join hundreds of protesters at Tuesday’s Johnston County school board meeting to urge the district to end its face mask requirement.
The Johnston County school board will decide Tuesday whether to continue its mask requirement in order to comply with a new state law requiring monthly votes on masking. Critics of requiring masks hope Cawthorn’s presence will cause the school board to reverse its 4-3 vote in August to mandate that students and teachers wear masks indoors.
“Any time a high-profile person comes in and stands behind a large group of citizens, if you don’t listen you’re making a mistake not paying attention,” Dale Lands, co-founder of Citizen Advocates for Accountable Government, said in an interview Monday. “Madison Cawthorn is not going to just show up. This is an issue of personal freedom.”
A spokesman for Cawthorn confirmed Monday that the Hendersonville Republican plans to attend the school board meeting.
Nearly all of North Carolina’s 115 school districts are requiring face masks. Johnston County school board members had cited how requiring masks would reduce the number of students who are quarantined as a reason to mandate the coverings.
As of earlier this month, Johnston County reported it had 37,593 students. It’s the seventh-largest school district in the state.
More than 400 people expected at protest
Citizen Advocates for Accountable Government and JCPS Parents For Freedom are organizing the protest. The rally will be held Tuesday afternoon outside the school district’s administrative building in Smithfield before the board meeting starts.
Lands said he expects 400 to 500 people to attend the protest. District leaders are bracing for a larger than normal crowd.
Citing fire code and capacity limits, the district is warning that a maximum of 25 people from the public will be allowed into the building. Tickets will be required and issued on a first-come first serve basis.
The district is requiring people to go through a security screening before they’re allowed inside the building. They also have to wear a face mask inside the building.
The school board is setting aside 30 minutes for public comment at the start of the meeting. Additional speakers can talk at the end of the meeting.
“Orderly behavior is expected both indoors and outdoors on JCPS property,” the district says in its meeting notice.
The meeting will be available for people to watch at www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vTJLQLqTQM
Cawthorn opposes school mask mandates
Johnston County is located nearly 400 miles from Cawthorn’s Western North Carolina Congressional district. But the controversial congressman has spoken against mask mandates in multiple school districts.
At an August Buncombe County school board meeting, Cawthorn called it “psychological child abuse” to require students to wear masks, The News & Observer previously reported. Also during that meeting, some parents “overthrew” the current school board and instated themselves into the positions, The Asheville Citizen-Times reported.
At an August Transylvania County school board meeting, Cawthorn urged school leaders to “disobey” state health quarantine rules for COVID, The N&O previously reported.
On Monday, the Union County school board voted to immediately stop COVID-19 contact tracing and significantly curtail coronavirus quarantine requirements, The Charlotte Observer reported. Union is also one of only three North Carolina school districts to not require masking.