Congressman Madison Cawthorn urges Johnston County school board to end mask mandate

Madison Cawthorn

U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn on Tuesday urged the Johnston County Board of Education to “defy” Gov. Roy Cooper by reversing its decision to mandate masks in schools.

The Hendersonville Republican attended the board’s regular business meeting at the request of local groups opposed to the board’s mask mandate, which was approved on a 4-3 vote last month.

“It’s time to be fearless,” Cawthorn said. “It’s time to stand up to Roy Cooper and say that the family and individual freedom always comes for the government.”

Cooper has left it to school districts to decide whether to require masks. Nearly all 115 districts are requiring masks.

The board took no action on the mask mandate, opting to postpone it due to the absence of vice chairwoman Terri Sessoms, whose husband died recently. A special virtual meeting has been scheduled for 2 p.m., Monday to address the mask mandate. A new law requires school boards to vote on masking policies monthly.

Doing the right thing is never easy, Cawthorn told the board.

“The eyes of our children are upon us,” he said. “They will remember your action when tyranny came knocking at the door.”

Cawthorn’s words were met with scattered applause by a small group of supporters who managed to secure seats inside the small board room. He’s attended several school board meetings across the state to denounce mask mandates and to drum up support for Republican candidates in upcoming elections.

The congressman spoke earlier at a rally held before the board meeting began. He was joined by Robby Starbuck, a Tennessee congressional candidate and Bo Hines, a candidate for North Carolina’s 13th congressional district as well as other candidates vying for seats in local and state races.

Cawthorn told the crowd that he’s determined to save his generation from “socialism.”

“That’s why I’m out here now,” Cawthorn said.

Although outnumbered, a handful of parents forcefully pushed back against mask opponents.

“This is a posturing, political event and it shouldn’t be,” said Erika Hall, a Johnston County parent. “This is supposed to be a regular school board meeting, but unfortunately it’s going to be about masks when it should be about supporting teachers.”

Cawthorn’s visit comes as the school district’s COVID dashboard shows 178 active COVID cases and 782 quarantines among students. Meanwhile, there are 15 cases and 50 quarantines among staff.

Policy Watch will have a more complete report on the rally later today.

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