Woman hopes for change in breastfeeding policy after being told to leave courtroom

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It’s legal in North Carolina to breastfeed a baby in public.

So Stephanie Rhodus was shocked to be scolded by a Henderson County judge on Monday and told to exit his courtroom because she was publicly breastfeeding her 8-month-old son, reports the Citizen-Times.

“Ma’am, you need to cover up—for you not to realize that is absolutely ridiculous,” Judge Peter Knight told her, according to a recording. “Step outside and cover up right now. Stand up and go, now.”

Rhodus complied with Knight’s directive by ending the nursing session, and he did not complain either that her baby was in court or that the child was crying during much of a hearing, she says. She explained to the newspaper that she can’t cover up while her son is nursing because he doesn’t tolerate having his face covered. Rhodus was in court because her mother, who has custody of Rhodus’ oldest child, was seeking a protective order against Rhodus. The judge granted that order.

Under state law, an exception to an indecent exposure statute says that “a woman may breast feed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast feeding.”

However, judges traditionally can set standards for court attire and decorum that may exceed what would be expected in public generally.

Knight declined to comment when contacted by reporters. But WTVD says the court clerk noted that she has seen an unnamed judge order an individual to tuck in a shirt.

Rhodus says she believes her rights under state law were violated and would like to talk to the judge to explain her point of view.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Public Breastfeeding May Be Legal in Mich., But It’s Not OK in My Court, Judge Told Mom”

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