BY KARISSA MILLER
A group of anti-mask protesters disrupted an Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education meeting on Monday night by slamming into and beating on a glass window until it cracked.
No injuries were reported during the disturbance at the Career Academy & Technical School in Troutman. Law enforcement was present, but attendees said no one was arrested.
“It scared a lot of people. Several people got up and moved when it happened,” said board Chairman Martin Page said.
“I couldn’t see it (from where I was at), but the door was shattered. It is the shatterproof glass that you have in a windshield so it stayed together,” he added.
Page described the crowd that gathered outside the boardroom as out of control. He said the board would have to discuss whether additional safety measures will be needed at future meetings.
Inside the boardroom a wave of fear and alarm spread through the parents, district employees and community members, many of whom showed up to share their views – pro and con – about the board’s recent decision to make face masks mandatory. District officials have said face masks are critical to keeping students in schools due to health protocols that require unmasked students to quarantine if they are in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
Following the incident, Vice Chairman Todd Carver, a retired law enforcement officer, made a motion to adjourn the meeting. However, his motion was not seconded so the meeting continued.
Page told those in attendance that the meeting was going to be civil. He warned that anyone who caused further disruptions would be removed.
Before the meeting began, the school board was advised by law enforcement that chairs in the boardroom should be separated by six feet. This limited the number of people who could be in the boardroom during the meeting.
When the doors opened for the school board meeting shortly before 6 p.m., people filed into the boardroom. The group of anti-mask protesters was prohibited from entering the room after all of the seats were filled.
Members of that group then began shouting and beating on the glass window from the outside.
Community member Todd Scott said he arrived at CATS around 4:30 p.m. to ensure that he could attend the meeting and address the board during the public comment period.
Scott said that the protesters grew quite angry when they couldn’t get into the meeting.
“They are bullies. They were bullying people to try and get their way,” he said.
A military veteran, Scott said that the constant shouting and shattering glass triggered his PTSD.
“My wife had to calm me down as soon as I got home. I’ll be up all night,” he said.
During the public comment period, parents and citizens on both sides of the mask debate expressed their views. Some were in favor of maintaining the school board’s mask mandate and others spoke out against it.
After the meeting, Superintendent Jeff James said in an interview, “[It’s] sad to see a time when opposing opinions can’t be heard without respect due both.”