(Image via Shutterstock) NC Education During a Pandemic
(Image via Shutterstock)

The teacher claimed a Wake Forest-area charter forced staff to report to school during coronavirus.

A whistle-blowing charter teacher in North Carolina who claimed staff were forced to report to school during the COVID-19 pandemic has been fired.

In April, WRAL wrote about Youngsville Academy, a charter school in Franklin County which was, according to teacher Scott Olsen, requiring staff to report despite a statewide stay-at-home order from Gov. Roy Cooper. 

In Olsen’s termination notice, a copy of which was provided to Cardinal & Pine, Youngsville Academy Founder and Principal Larry Henson wrote Olsen engaged in “gross misconduct” by, among other things, not communicating his grievance to the school and escalating it as school policy requires.

The notice also accused Olsen of making false claims about “repeated pleas” to school administration and about being required to bring his children to school.

In addition, the notice says Olsen violated the terms of his leave by providing reporters with leave documents.

“As part of the internal investigation you were afforded opportunities to provide evidence related to the items outlined above as gross misconduct,” the notice said. “No evidence was provided.”

WRAL’s reporting quoted Olsen, who at the time requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation, saying he felt he was being forced to choose between his job and the safety of his family.  

The K-6 school, which was founded in 2015, serves nearly 400 students, according to its site.

In WRAL’s report, Youngsville Academy Business Director Dan Henson laid out his expectations for teachers in an email titled “Facts not Fear,” sent a few days before teachers were expected to return to the building.

Henson noted that educational models other schools were following were not working.  He explained to staff that their temperatures would be taken when they entered the building, homemade masks would be permitted, and collaborative meetings would occur in the gym where team members could maintain social distancing requirements.  

Henson added: “We recognize that even with exceeding health recommendations some people may still struggle with anxiety. If your anxiety is severe, please consider utilizing United Healthcare’s mental health services during this time for coping assistance.”

He ended the email by saying “We look forward to seeing you on Thursday (from a distance – lol).”

The day after WRAL’s story, Olsen was placed on paid administrative leave while an investigation was made into alleged contract violations for “disparaging the school.”  Olsen said he was likely identified by administrators when his voice was recognized in the phone interview he’d done with WRAL.

On the same day as WRAL’s report, the US Department of Labor issued a statement reminding employers that they “cannot retaliate against workers reporting unsafe conditions during [the] coronavirus pandemic.”  That statement provided information about federal whistleblower protections which hold that it is illegal for an employer to “fire, demote, transfer or otherwise retaliate against a worker for using their rights under the law.”

School officials did not respond to Cardinal & Pine‘s request for comment by deadline Friday.

You can read the termination notice in its entirety here.