Breastfeeding mother ordered to leave North Carolina court room

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Breastfeeding mom removed from court
Breastfeeding mom removed from court in Henderson County

HENDERSON COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- A mother says she was kicked out of a Henderson County courtroom on Monday morning for breastfeeding.

"I was breast-feeding my baby while I was waiting, and I walked up and continued to breast-feed him," said Stephanie Rhodus.

Five-and-a-half minutes into the court case, Judge Peter Knight commented on what Rhodus was doing.

"Ma'am you need to cover up. For you not to realize that is absolutely ridiculous," Knight ordered. "Step outside, and cover up right now. Stand up, and go." WLOS obtained an official audio record from the court.

A presiding judge has a lot of say over conduct in a courtroom. The Clerk said she's seen a judge make somebody tuck a shirt in. Rhodus said her rights were violated.

Rhodus was feeding her 8-month-old boy Archer. Judge Knight said he didn't have a problem with the baby being there. He said he understood if she couldn't make other arrangements.

"But to nurse the child in the courtroom is just absolutely inappropriate. Step outside and button up," Judge Knight said.

Rhodus says she immediately unlatched Archer and covered herself up.

"I was shocked," she said.

Rhodus came to court as a defendant against her mother. Rhodus' mom has custody of her oldest child, an 8-year-old boy. In the audio, you hear Archer crying throughout the proceeding.

"After I stopped feeding him, he became distressed and fussy and agitated. It made the rest of the proceedings pretty difficult," Rhodus said.

The judge referenced breast-feeding twice early, but never again. The case lasted about 25 minutes.

The judge gave Rhodus' mom a six-month protective order for Stephanie not to see her child. Rhodus tried to make her case further, and Judge Knight threatened to hold her in contempt.

She feels breast-feeding at the beginning affected the Judge's decision. Through a bailiff, Judge Knight said he couldn't comment on the case.

Rhodus says she's bringing her baby next week to court.

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