Education

Whistleblower teacher put on leave by charter school

Posted April 8, 2020 1:29 p.m. EDT
Updated April 9, 2020 10:11 a.m. EDT

— The teacher who contacted WRAL News with concerns about having to report to work at Youngsville Academy during a stay-at-home order was put on administrative leave by the school's principal Wednesday.

The teacher shared the leave notice with WRAL.

Whistleblower teacher put on administrative leave

The teacher said his school email was disabled shortly after WRAL first reported on the story Tuesday afternoon.

"At this point, I feel what I'm doing in my heart is right. The ball's in their court," he said after receiving the leave notice Wednesday. "It breaks my heart. It breaks my heart. I feel like I’m being bullied. I feel like I’m being intimidated, and it’s just not right."

New guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor explicitly forbids employers from punishing employees for speaking up about health concerns in the workplace.

"The U.S Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers that it is illegal to retaliate against workers because they report unsafe and unhealthful working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic," Wednesday's news release reads in part. "Acts of retaliation can include terminations, demotions, denials of overtime or promotion, or reductions in pay or hours."

The teacher said his phone has been "ringing off the hook" with calls and messages of support from other teachers, parents at the school and people in the community.

"I said to many of them as I replied back, 'I really feel blessed.' I feel blessed, I feel supported," he said. "This was not done to be malicious. This was done out of concern for myself, my family, them and their families. But the support has been unwavering."

But, he adds, it's hard to be cut off from his students as they go back to class next week.

WRAL requested interviews with Youngsville Academy Principal Larry Henson and his son, school business director Dan Henson. They declined, but sent this statement: "We do not discuss internal personnel matters. We have always been compliant and remain fully compliant with OSHA, CDC, DHHS, County Health Department, and Governor Cooper's Executive Orders."

The state Department of Public Instruction declined to comment on the disciplinary action against the teacher or on what appear to be conflicting accounts about how long teachers at the academy will be expected to report to work.

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