SMITHFIELD – Dozens of people gathered Tuesday for a march and protest at Johnston County Public Schools Central Office on Highway 70 East. The event corresponded with today’s meeting of the Johnston County Public School Board.
Citizen Advocates for Accountable Government (CAAG) and JCPS Parents for Freedom organized the event.
US Congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) from the 11th District, Bo Hines of Charlotte, a candidate for the US House 13th District, and Robby Starbuck a US House candidate from Nashville, TN were the main speakers.
CAAG founder Dale Lands said, “We are here today with support from a Congressman, and the parents in the County, we are here to protest the mask mandate, vaccine mandate, all attacks on personal freedom, and because they don’t have a CRT policy.”
Lands said he hopes the gathering gets the attention of school board members. “I hope they get the message we are their constituents. We put them in office. We expect them to vote the way we expect them to do as a county. Everybody has the right to wear a mask and get vaccinates, and the right to teach kids anything they want to at home. It just doesn’t need to be done in the school system.”
Lands called it a fight between good and evil. “We must win this fight now. It is bigger than the school board, county commissioners or the NC legislature. Move Johnston County back in the right direction.”
Kevin Donovan, organizer of the JCPS Parents for Freedom group, said, “What we are trying to do is show the Board that the decisions they are making do not line up with their constituents in the county. The vast majority want something different and they are not willing to listen, or provide open dialogue, between parents and the school system and the board of education. We want to let them know they are being watched and being held accountable for the decisions they choose.”
Donovan said the school board is also failing to address other “big ticket” items within the county including the lack of teachers, teacher pay, the student-teacher ratio, and overcrowded classrooms.
One protester said Johnston County Schools is facing a civil rights crisis that is not been addressed by the school board. They said 28 percent of African American students and 31 percent of Hispanic students in JCPS can’t read at grade level.
Joe Preston, whose wife Aurora Preston a teacher at South Johnston High School, was disciplined for refusing to wear a mask in her classroom, announced he would be running in 2022 for the Johnston County Public School Board.
Several counter protesters held signs objecting to the those wanting to end the mask and vaccine mandates.
During the outside gathering, a moment of silence was held for victims of 9/11. A separate moment of silence was held for school board member Terri Sessoms whose husband died recently.
Lands encouraged attendees to support candidates with conservative values during the 2022 elections.
A number of officers from the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office were present inside and outside the Central Office during the protest and board meeting.