DAVIDSON COUNTY — Individuals in Davidson County are asking the county’s board of commissioners to withhold funding for Davidson County Schools in light of the board’s decision to maintain mask mandates.
After two months of expressing their displeasure at the September and October school board meetings, parents and grandparents appealed this week to commissioners in hopes they might find advocates among board members. The school board voted earlier this month to renew mandates for students and staff to wear face coverings through October.
State law requires all boards of education in the North Carolina public school system to review a policy regarding the use of face coverings at least once a month as to whether the policy should be continued, modified or dropped. Polly Leonard, who has addressed the school board each opportunity she has been afforded — Leonard was denied entry to a recent meeting — spoke for the first time to commissioners.
Leonard aired her grievances with the schools’ mask mandates, which include all school buildings countywide, including Davis-Townsend Elementary where school board meetings are held. Within the last couple of months, board members have begun wearing face coverings and require those in attendance at the meetings to do likewise.
At the commissioners meeting, where masks are not mandated, Leonard explained an expectation that schools be in line with local governmental property.
“I’m here demanding that all state funds be held from Davidson County Schools until they cease and desist all criminal acts being perpetrated against our kids with the COVID toolkit guideline,” Leonard said. “If you can come in here [to a commissioners meeting] and not wear a facemask, there’s no reason why we have to go to a BOE [meeting] and be harassed and intimidated.”
Leonard was granted six minutes during the public address portion of the meeting to speak to commissioners instead of the customary three. Tripp Kester, a Davidson County Sheriff’s deputy who has recently announced his intentions to run for county commissioner, yielded his time to Leonard.
Joined by three other residents who echoed her request to withhold funding from the schools, Leonard pointed to the Johnston County school system as an example of a North Carolina county that kept state funds from its school board. In that instance, Johnston County school ultimately turned over $7.9 million in exchange for imposing new rules that limit how teachers can discuss history and racism in their classrooms.
A Johnston County school board policy states teachers can be disciplined or fired if they teach that American historical figures weren’t heroes, undermine the U.S. Constitution in lessons or say that racism is a permanent part of American life. It had previously withheld the funding until the school board passed a policy preventing what it called Critical Race Theory from being taught.
“This is political warfare, political theatre, and we’ve had enough and those are our kids,” Leonard said. “Johnston County voted last week that they will withhold their $8 million in state funds until they remove CRT, and I’m here to ask for you to withhold the state funds effective immediately.”
The board of commissioners committed to no action.
Superintendent Emily Lipe has noted the decrease in the number of students and staff required to quarantine since masks were mandated. In its weekly COVID update for the week of Oct. 1 to Oct. 8, Davidson County Schools reported only 61 students and three staff members in the district were currently required to quarantine, with 44 students and 22 staff members having contracted the virus.
The number of students and staff in the Davidson County Schools district required to quarantine has been dropping since its highest point in mid-August when 1,447 students in one week were required to quarantine after being exposed to the virus at school.
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at email@example.com.