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Teacher not allowed in class after refusing to wear mask


By Bryan Mims

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    FOUR OAKS, North Carolina (WRAL) — A Johnston County teacher could lose her job after refusing to wear a mask at school.

Aurora Preston was to start her sixth year of teaching English at South Johnston High School this week, but she’s not in the classroom after telling her principal last week that she had no plans to wear a mask.

The Johnston County Board of Education voted Aug. 10 to mandate masks in all schools as a way to limit the spread of coronavirus, which has surged across North Carolina in recent weeks.

“I feel like they’re overstepping their bounds in trying to dictate things that really have nothing to do with education,” Preston said Tuesday.

That’s why she showed up for the first teacher workday last week without a mask.

“The principal walked by and said I need to wear a mask. I chuckled because I knew I wasn’t going to, and I said, ‘Perhaps we should talk about it,'” she said.

The principal told her to stay in her classroom until he could get guidance from the district office. After three hours in her room, she was told to go home, and she hasn’t been back to school since then.

“Nobody had any answers. Nobody knows what to do with me,” she said. “I have the right to choose whether or not I comply. … I’m not breaking the law. I’m not telling others to break the law. I just want to adhere to my God-given rights.”

Preston said she doesn’t believe masks reduce the spread of the virus, contradicting the position held by federal, state and local health experts. The school board followed that public health guidance when voting to require masks.

“It’s not about the mask, it’s about the control factor, because, after the masks are done, then what? Then it’s about the vaccines,” she said.

Preston also isn’t vaccinated against the virus and said she has no plans to get any shots. Her Facebook page features her picture with the statements: “I trust my immune system. My body, my choice. Freedom to choose.”

Superintendent Eric Bracy said in a statement that he couldn’t discuss a personnel matter, but he added in a statement that anyone who needed an accommodation for the mask requirement could have a doctor fill out a form for district officials to consider.

Preston said she doesn’t need to fill out the form because masks don’t present a medical issue for her.

“I’m choosing not to wear a mask for my own beliefs. You’re choosing to wear a masks for your own beliefs. We still live in a country where those rights are given,” she said.

Preston said she’s looked at teaching positions in other districts but said every system in central North Carolina is requiring masks right now. She also cannot teach virtually because the district requires her to teach from a school building – and wear a mask.

District administrators have offered to let her take nine weeks of unpaid leave and re-evaluate her status then.

“I feel like it’s punishment. It’s punishment for not complying,” she said. “You have to stand up for what you believe in.”

Joe Preston said he hopes his wife and the district can reach an amicable solution.

“Obviously, I would like her to keep her position,” he said. “It’s not just the paycheck and the benefits we get from it. She enjoys her children, her students.”

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