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Preston parents upset about pro-vaccine message

KINGWOOD — Some Preston County parents are upset over the school district’s mask mandate and a health department visit to schools featuring a pro-vaccine message.

At the Board of Education meeting on Valentine’s Day, several of those parents made their displeasure known.

Nathan Moore, a BOE candidate, was the first to speak, asking whether the board was aware of the material sent home with students. They were not, and he gave them a copy of the book, “We’re Going To Be O.K.” to pass around. The book was written by Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton and Dr. Leigh-Ann Webb, with illustrations by Ashleigh Corrin Webb.

Moore also provided a door hanger with COVID-19 vaccine information the Preston County Health Department handed out.

“That CDC propaganda came home in my daughter’s backpack,” said Nicole Sleppy. “Do you want to know what happened when that came out of the backpack? My daughter started crying. My daughter has been through two years of hell — we all have.”

Moore asked if the board approved the materials going into elementary schools and was told by Superintendent Stephen Wotring the board didn’t vote on it. 

Moore said he understood the board didn’t vote on it but the material should have never made its way inside schools. He said that kind of information should have been approved beforehand.

“We all stood here and had a conversation. And the board agreed that you will not push vaccines on children. That is 100% what this is doing,” Moore said. “This is telling children, ‘you need to be vaccinated.’ Whether that’s the parents’ wish or not, that’s taking fragile minds and impressing what you want on them. … That’s unacceptable.”

Wotring said the health department has been going into the schools since before he was even a principal. They get permission to go, then contact schools directly.

“I never see the material. I don’t know what that material is,” Wotring said. “It’s never been, I mean, obviously this time, there, it took a different turn. But like I said, it’s just a practice thing done for years. This time it, it, obviously …”

“Well this time it bit us in the butt,” Board member Pam Feathers finished.

She asked to put a discussion on the Feb. 28 meeting’s agenda about how to handle the situation going forward.

“I think yearly, they need to come before the board with their literature to be approved to take into the schools,” Feathers said. “It can even be put on our website for parents to comment for a period of time to make sure they’re given the opportunity to opt out. We really need to control what is being taken into our schools,” Feathers said.

Moore also asked the board to vote on removing any kind of mask mandate. Board President Jack Keim said the board had a discussion on COVID protocols later in the meeting but they couldn’t vote as it wasn’t an agenda item.

Later, Keim said he agreed with Moore and requested a vote on COVID protocols be put on the agenda for the next meeting.

“We will vote to continue as we are going, or to do away and give back the freedom to to the parents for them and maybe a open option. That if parents want their children to wear a mask, in school, that’s fine,” Keim said. “On the bus, they have to because that’s federal. We don’t have a say over that. Even as much as we might want to. That’s federal. … But once they were at school, then in my opinion, probably a mask is not going down much good.”

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