North Carolina judge to rule on whether to temporarily block Thursday the return of a Optional mask plan for Lincoln County schools after a group of students and their parents filed a lawsuit to arrest him.
A total of 13 students and their families filed a lawsuit this week against the Lincoln County Board of Education’s 4-3 decision on September 14 to drop its mask mandate and end most student quarantines.
The complaint alleges in part that the changes violate the complainants’ constitutional guarantee of a safe education. The optional mask policy went into effect on Wednesday.
The divided school board has made the change to stop requiring masks in the classroom even as a COVID-19 resurgence continues to hit the largely rural county east of Charlotte. Lincoln County’s 14.9% positive COVID test rate far exceeds the state average.
According to the Lincoln County Department of Health, 36% of the county’s new COVID cases in the past two weeks have struck children 17 and under.
At least one school employee also died. On September 13, the virus claimed the life of third-grade teacher Cruceta Jeffeirs.
The lawsuit calls on the courts to block the new policy until the scheduled school board meeting on October 12. Under a new NC law, school boards must meet once a month to vote on hide mandates.
Superior Court Judge James Morgan has promised a ruling by Thursday.
One of the students’ attorneys, Luke Largess of Charlotte, told the judge in a two-hour hearing Tuesday that the council’s decision to make the masks optional defied the advice of medical experts, violated its own rules and put schoolchildren needlessly endangered.
“It’s very dangerous, very dangerous. That’s the only reason we’re here, ”said Largess, according to Observer’s press partner, WBTV.
Asheville’s attorney, Dean Shatley, who represents the board, countered in court that the lawsuit attempted to preempt the clear authority of the board and should be dismissed.
“This is an extraordinary request from this tribunal, asking the tribunal to interfere in the political decisions that the board has the right to make,” Shatley said, according to the television station. “If a mask warrant were necessary, there are other agencies that could have controlled this environment. They choose not to. They choose to leave it to the discretion of the local elected council.
For now, Lincoln County is one of five school districts in North Carolina that does not require masks. Federal, state and local health officials say blankets are the most effective way to slow the spread of disease in the classroom. But as the pandemic becomes politicized, masks have become the target of growing derision from families and politicians opposed to government mandates.
“It’s for control,” said Kevin Sanders of Iron Station, who opposed mandatory masks in schools at the September 14 board meeting. “Stop giving in to fear and emotional decision making and start using logic and risk analysis. We cannot stop living because we are afraid of dying.
“You have to listen to the doctors,” retorted Iron Station resident Stacy Pattison. “Lincoln County students would suffer the consequences, with scores of people in home quarantine. “