North Carolina lawmakers reject end of monthly school board mask votes

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North Carolina lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a change in state law that requires local school boards to hold monthly votes on their face mask rules.

Local and public school leaders want to eliminate the required monthly votes that have sparked protests and controversial meetings in local school boards across the state. Democratic lawmakers have called it a public safety issue to drop the requirement while Republican lawmakers have said they want to make sure the public is heard.

A proposal to end monthly face mask votes was rejected by the GOP-controlled State House in a 51-41 vote on Wednesday. All of the Democrats featured voted to drop the requirement. Only one Republican present did not vote to maintain the requirement.

“The General Assembly has adopted this almost unanimous masking vote policy,” Speaker of the House Tim Moore said. tweeted Wednesday after the vote. “We are upholding this law. It is important that parents continue to have a say in policies that impact the educational experience of students.

But Representative Amos Quick, a Democrat from Guilford County, said state lawmakers have the advantage of General Assembly policing when they meet.

“These school board meetings are getting more and more controversial,” Quick said, calling it a public safety issue.

The “violence” takes place at school meetings

In August, state lawmakers approved a sweeping COVID-19 assistance for schools bill, which included provisions for schools to offer distance learning in the event of an emergency. to COVID. It also included a section demanding monthly votes from school boards on masks. Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, signed the bill.

Most of the state’s 115 school districts require face coverings. They have to vote every month to keep these policies.

Threats were made against some members of the school board and acts of vandalism took place at some meetings. It is not uncommon now for people who wish to attend school board meetings to be scanned by portable metal detectors for weapons.

Police officers are also now present at some school board meetings.

“As educational leaders in our state, we are united in our fierce passion for serving students and in our commitment to providing all students and those who serve our students with a safe environment,” said Superintendent. of State Catherine Truitt, Chairman of the State Board of Education Eric and the Board of Trustees. Vice President Alan Duncan said in a joint statement on Tuesday

“As we continue to see cases of violence unfold at some local school board meetings, we are united again. The heightened hostility and threats of force that we have seen across the state do not reflect what we expect and demand of our own students: to treat others with kindness and respect.

Cooper also addressed the controversial school board meetings during a recent press briefing on the pandemic.

“Threats, bullying, bullying – none of this belongs in our public schools, especially by adults,” Cooper said. “Remember, our kids are watching.”

The North Carolina School Boards Association has called on state lawmakers to drop the monthly voting requirement, saying the law exacerbates safety concerns school boards face.

“It has been said by legislative leaders that this provision will create transparency,” said Bruce Mildwurf, director of government relations for the NCSBA, in a September 21 letter to lawmakers. additional stress to what was already a highly flammable subject.

GOP rejects change to hide vote

Representative Rosa Gill, a Democrat from Wake County, sponsored the failed amendment to another education bill on Wednesday. School boards should not have voted on masks if they changed their policy.

Minority Parliamentary Leader Robert Reives, a Democrat from Chatham County, said the amendment would not have changed the opportunities for parents to address their school boards at meetings.

“What that says is that once the decision is made … either not to wear face coverings or to wear face coverings, that decision does not have to be reviewed every month,” he said. said Reives.

Rep. John Torbett, a Republican from Gaston County, said monthly votes were good for open meetings and for giving the public a voice on issues.

“This kind of mandate imposed on people, many of whom are very unhappy, should be reconsidered,” said Representative Larry Pittman, a Republican from Cabarrus County.

Under the dome

On The News & Observer’s Under the Dome podcast, we unpack the legislation and the issues that matter, keeping you up to date with what’s going on in North Carolina politics twice a week on Monday and Friday mornings. Check us out here and sign up for our weekly Under the Dome newsletter for more political news.

This story was originally published September 29, 2021 13:06.

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T. Keung Hui has been covering Kindergarten to Grade 12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school staff, and the community understand the vital role education plays. North Carolina. Its main focus is Wake County, but it also covers education issues statewide.


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