SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-11) was among the dozens outside of the Johnston County School Board meeting to call for an end to the district’s mask mandate.
The school board opted delaying a vote on its mask policy until Monday because a member was unable to make the meeting.
On July 29, the Johnston County School Board voted to make masks optional for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
However, on Aug. 10, the board reversed course and implemented a mask mandate.
Cawthorn spoke with CBS 17 on Tuesday before the board meeting. He said he wasn’t opposed to masks, but believes it should be left up to the parents to decide.
“I think we all need to make our own personal risk assessment,” Cawthorn said. “None of these parents behind me signed up to co-parent with the government.”
He said he was asked to attend the rally and subsequent board meeting by a group of parents.
When asked what he would say to concerned teachers, Cawthorn said he would “highly recommend they wear a mask.”
“But I don’t want to make medical recommendations for them because that’s not really the role for someone in politics. My role is to defend freedom and to defend choice. And if any teacher decides to wear a mask in their classroom, I’ll never give them a sideways look,” he said.
Cawthorn represents North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, which is in the far western part of the state.
There was stepped-up security for the meeting. Attendance was also limited.
At the start of the meeting, the board said one of its members wouldn’t be attending, citing a death in the family. The board decided to hold off on discussing or voting on face coverings until that member could attend.
People still voiced their concerns during the public comment.
“Every single child deserves the chance to go to school and to be safe in that school. Unmasking our children opens the door to clusters that will close our schools,” parent Kelly Kasparov said.
“We now dread going to school because we’re forced to put on a hot and sticky mask all day, with one break for lunch,” a high school student said.
“COVID is not over and it likely won’t be for a while. It is imperative that we maintain mandatory masks until our district and county numbers go down substantially,” said parent Mary Beck.
“Our children have been muzzled, forced to grow up in a world where their emotions are hidden and their voices are smothered,” Cawthorn said.
The Johnston County School Board will now meet Monday at 2 p.m. to vote on the mask mandate. The meeting will happen virtually.