Monday, June 17, 2024

Video: Anti-mask group continues protests at school board meeting

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A group of ralliers opposed to face coverings once again turned out to the New Hanover County Board of Education meeting and created a ruckus outside while school board business was underway. For months, protesters have shown up to the board meetings to speak out against mask wearing.

Per Senate Bill 654, school boards are required to reconsider their district’s mask policy each month. New Hanover County Schools voted in early August to start the new school year with a face covering requirement, which has remained a point of contention.

At Tuesday’s meeting, a crowd gathered, shouting and cursing, demanding entry into the building without face coverings.

At the direction of school board chair Stefanie Adams, deputies only allowed inside guests who complied with the county’s indoor mask mandate. A couple of people agreed to accept the disposable face coverings offered.

One man attempted to gain entry at the door without a mask. He was physically escorted away from the entrance after he became aggressive, a sheriff’s office spokesperson said.

That led another man to suggest they should storm the building, but they were stopped at the doorway and proceeded to argue with officers who were guarding its entrance.

As the board meeting was disrupted by the sound of chants coming from outside, Adams called a recess so she could ask Chief Deputy Ken Sarvis to remove the group from the premises. However, protesters remained on the steps, even after they were ordered to move to the grass. They prayed, kneeled before officers, and blasted Christian music from a speaker.

School board protests have been in the news nationwide since the latest wave of Covid-19 spiked at the beginning of the school year, leading to mask mandates in schools to protect kids — especially ones who cannot get vaccinated — against the more highly infectious delta variant. It continues to be a hot-button issue that even Gov. Roy Cooper addressed in a press conference two weeks ago.

“Many are concerned about the fevered pitch that many school board meetings have reached in recent weeks,” he said. “[T]hreats, bullying, intimidation — none of this belongs in our public schools, particularly by adults. Remember, our children are watching. They are absorbing everything they see in here, even if we think they aren’t paying attention. Being civil and respectful of one another is more important than ever.”

On Tuesday, the New Hanover County Board of Education voted 6-1 to continue the current mask mandate in schools, with board member Pete Wildeboer casting the lone dissenting vote. Wildeboer once again voiced his support for N95s over other types of coverings.

New Hanover’s countywide mask mandate trumps any of the board’s decisions.

No arrests were made at the meeting.

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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