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Breastfeeding mom says judge asked her to leave courtroom

FOREST CITY, NC (WSPA) – A North Carolina mother says a judge tried to kick her out of the courtroom because she was breastfeeding her child.

Stephanie Rhodus of Forest City said she was in court Monday when her eight-month-old woke up from a nap and was hungry.

“As soon as I went into court, I started nursing him,” Rhodus said. “Our case was the first one up so I didn’t stop nursing him.”

The 25-year-old said that’s when Judge Peter Knight started reprimanding her. Since North Carolina state law allows women to breastfeed in public, Rhodus said she didn’t think twice about it.

“It absolutely caught me off guard. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to think. I was flabbergasted by the situation,” Rhodus explained. “I didn’t think that anything would ever be said to me for breastfeeding in public.”

24 Hour News 8’s sister station, 7 News, obtained an audio copy of the court proceedings, where Judge Knight said, “Ma’am you need to cover up. That’s – for you not to realize that is absolutely ridiculous. Step outside and cover up right now. Stand up and go, now. I am fine with having a child if you don’t have other arrangements made, that’s certainly going to happen, but to nurse the child in the courtroom is just absolutely inappropriate. Step outside and button up or whatever you need to do to button up. Are you gonna be able to stay buttoned up? All right. Have a seat and finish reading the complaint.”

7 News reached out to Judge Knight, who sent the following statement:

We as a court routinely accommodate women who are nursing, including while they are waiting for a case to be called in the courtroom.  However, when a case is called and a party is participating in a formal hearing before the court, all litigants are expected to respect the same rules of procedure, decorum and dress.  That was the case here.  If breastfeeding accommodations were needed, those certainly would have been made.