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Parents file lawsuit over Lincoln County schools optional mask policy

Judge hopes to have a decision by Thursday afternoon
Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 11:21 PM EDT
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LINCOLNTON, N.C. (WBTV) - The debate over masks in schools landed in a Lincoln County courtroom Tuesday afternoon.

A group of families, which include students, are suing the Lincoln County School District over its optional mask policy.

They argue the move would make learning inside the classroom unsafe. They want to keep masks mandatory in the district.

Masks had been mandatory in Lincoln County Schools but on Sept. 14, board members voted to make them optional starting Sept. 29. Currently, according to county health department numbers, 36 percent of new COVID cases in the past 14 days involved children 17 and younger.

”It’s very dangerous, very dangerous. That is the only reason why we’re here, it is very dangerous,” said attorney Luke Largess, who is representing the families who filed the lawsuit.

Inside the courtroom, both sides debated back-and-forth.

”This is an extraordinary ask of this court. Asking the court to interject itself in policy-making decisions which the board has the right to do,” said attorney K. Dean Shatley II, who is representing the Lincoln County School District. ”If a mask mandate was necessary there are other agencies that could have controlled that environment, they choose not to. They choose to leave it at the discretion of local elected board.”

In the hearing that lasted almost two hours, the judge -- after a climatic pause -- decided he needed more time before making a decision. He told the court, he hoped to have it by Thursday afternoon.

”I know how swamped our health care system is because I’ve heard from the doctors, there have been press releases, press conferences, so I’m very upset. I’m hopeful the next time the board meets they will reconsider,” attorney Meredith Shuford told WBTV who is also representing the families.

WBTV asked the attorneys representing Lincoln County Schools for comment on camera but were told they would not be making a statement.

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