Wake County Schools

Man's plea to Wake County school leaders goes viral

Posted October 7, 2020 7:46 p.m. EDT
Updated October 7, 2020 10:43 p.m. EDT

— A clip of a Raleigh lawyer criticizing the Wake County school board for returning students to the classroom is spreading across social media.

The moment between Shaun Pollenz and board members happened during a meeting on Tuesday night.

Pollenz said he felt obligated to stand up for educators like his mother, Eileen Pollenz, a teacher for the Wake County Public School System. Under the school system's current plan, she'll be back with students in person in about a month.

Less than a day after it was uploaded, the two minute clip had nearly 2,000 likes and hundreds of comments on Reddit.

"Good evening, ladies and germs," Pollenz greets those attending the meeting. "How will each of you respond to the death of a student or staff member? Have you thought of that yet? I have. For me, the terms ‘depraved heart’ and ‘criminally negligent homicide’ come to mind.”

Pollenz said he's glad people are hearing and sharing his message.

"I felt like it was necessary to not only speak up on her behalf, but on the behalf of all educators who genuinely fear that having their voices heard loud and clear could cost them their job," he added.

Under the school board's current plan, students in pre-kindergarten through third grade will begin to rotate to in-person learning at the end of October. Sixth through eighth graders, like the ones Eileen Pollenz teaches at Wakefield Middle School, will start in November.

Pollenz said that will end in disaster.

"If they continue on this path, I think it has the potential to result in loss of life," Shaun Pollenz said

Wake County school board Chairman Keith Sutton was in the room when Pollenz spoke and said he "understands the point that he's making."

Sutton said reaction to the current plan to return some students to the classroom as early as Oct. 26 is strong, but essentially split.

"That is evidenced by the fact there are folks that believe we are returning to school too soon. There are some that believe we are not returning soon enough," he said.

Sutton added that the timing is right and believes current scientific data, plus the school's extensive reopening plan, which includes protective gear, will lessen the spread of coronavirus.

"We would not have made the decision that we made if we didn't feel confident that we can return to the building, that students and faculty and staff can return safely," Sutton said.

Pollenz said he doesn't buy it.

"My hope is that the school board will recognize that they made a mistake and are moving too quickly," he added.

Sutton said the district has adjusted its return-to-school plan three times because of coronavirus and will do so again, if warranted.

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