With a positivity rate of over 50 percent, the highest on record for Macon County since the beginning of the pandemic, Macon County Director of Public Health Kathy McGaha recommended the school system begin the school year requiring masks for students and staff on Monday night.
During the public comment period, Macon County Board of Education Chairman Jim Breedlove paused reading submissions from Macon County parents and residents to allow Congressman Madison Cawthorn to address the board via video.
Rep. Cawthorn has spoken at various school board meetings in his district, speaking out against mask mandates, and made national news after addressing the Buncombe County Board of Education meeting in person.
While Rep. Cawthorn addressed the meeting via video, the board meeting was held virtually due to rising COVID19 cases and safety concerns regarding crowds attending the meeting. While the 20 person crowd that gathered outside the building was peaceful, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office did have additional law enforcement outside of the building due to safety concerns.
“The Superintendent of Schools in your county work for you, they don’t work for the Governor, they don’t work for these bureaucrats in Raleigh,” said Rep. Cawthorn. “I am asking you please, stand up and do the hard thing. I understand it may be unpopular. I understand you may get some backlash. But surely the people in Raleigh can’t arrest all of us. They can’t shut down all the schools.”
Rep. Cawthorn claimed that the COVID19 virus is less lethal than the cold and flu and suggested he believes masks shouldn’t be used because of that.
With much of the same talking points shared at other school board’s Cawthorn branched off from addressing mask mandates and spoke more about Critical Race Theory and abolishing the Federal Department of Education.
“I don’t believe that our school boards were elected to force Critical Race Theories, I don’t believe our school boards were elected to try to politicize our children,” said Rep. Cawthorn. “My dream of the future is where we get rid of the Federal Department of Education and give all the power back to the school board where it rightly belongs.”
After a lengthy debate and over an hour of public comment, the Board of Education ultimately voted 3-2 to require masks to begin the school year on August 23, reversing an earlier decision for masks to be optional. The board also made it clear that transition to optional masks was top priority and committed to meeting weekly to reassess county data surrounding COVID19.