MISENHEIMER — In what became a heated hour of discussion between the Gray Stone Day School Board of Directors and concerned parents on Monday night, board members threatened to adjourn the meeting ahead of schedule on multiple occasions.
The board came under fire for a group of issues pertaining to the school: the handling of a recent sexual assault case with two students, the enforced mask and COVID-19 quarantine policies, a social distancing policy that has led to students eating lunch outside, and the leaked social media photos of a hired athletic coach potentially participating in drug use.
Gray Stone parent Rosie Alexander spoke to the board and recounted her recent experience of how the school’s administration addressed a sexual assault case involving her daughter that occurred within a school building on the night of Dec. 3, 2021.
Alexander stated that school officials directly violated North Carolina General Statute 115C-2, a state law that requires all sexual assault cases to be immediately reported to the victim’s parents as well as the police department. Alexander was not contacted by the school and a police report was not filed.
She also alleged that her daughter was advised by a school official to “just pretend like it never happened” when she came back to school after Christmas break.
“This gross negligence has only continued as we continue to push for answers and results,” Alexander said, citing her interaction with Dr. Shaunda Cooper, director of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction for charter schools, who agreed with her that Gray Stone violated the law.
The school board did not address the issue and opted to move on to the remaining items on its meeting agenda.
In a unanimous decision, the directors voted to continue the enforcement of the school’s mask policies that have been in place for the entirety of the 2021-22 academic year. The board based its continuation of a mask mandate on the recommendations provided by the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit.
Because Gray Stone is a charter school, it is not legally required to follow the Stanly County Board of Education’s ruling that masks be optional.
Stanly County commissioner candidate Patty Crump provided her input on Gray Stone’s mandate and social distancing requirements: “The fact is that masks are unhealthy, ineffective, unnecessary, a barrier to learning, and they foster a dehumanizing environment for teachers and students that negatively impacts mental health…It’s our job to question “the science.” If you can’t question science, you have to question if the science is actually propaganda.”
Crump said that she has also heard accounts of Gray Stone students who have been eating lunch outside, at their desks, and even in the restrooms because of a new school rule that limits only four students per table in the cafeteria.
Crump wasn’t alone in her dissension of the board’s COVID-related policies.
“Many believe if you don’t adopt the mask mandate, the director of health and human services can shut the school down. This is not true,” said Alexis Hughes, chair of the Moms for Liberty Stanly County Chapter. “I have emails from Stanly County Health Director David Jenkins stating this is not the case.”
As the meeting progressed, the board was confronted with printed photos of the school’s middle school soccer coach that were posted on Instagram. In the pictures, the coach can be seen vaping with an electronic device, which can be used to consume THC, and smoking; the school directors were asked if they were comfortable with that particular coach being the assigned driver for students to-and-from various events and games.
Following an hour of discussion and public statements, the meeting went into a closed session for the rest of its duration. The next Gray Stone Board of Directors meeting is slated for Feb. 14 at 6 p.m.