School employee, asked to take Black Lives Matter mask off, wants apology

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AMERICAN FORK, Utah (ABC 4 News) – A bus aide for the Alpine School District is asking for an apology after district officials told her to stop wearing a Black Lives Matter mask on the job.

Breona Wilson is a bus aide for special needs kids in the Alpine School District. It can be a difficult job at times, she says — but she loves it.

“It’s like being a nurse almost. There’s days where I get puked on, I get punched, and you just have those days where you’re like okay — that happened. But then you go home and you’re like I still was able to make that person feel so wonderful,” said Wilson.

“And that’s what makes it feel good, at the end of the day, is I helped somebody,” added Wilson.

Like everybody else this school year, Wilson was wearing a mask to work. Hers read Black Lives Matter.

Last month, a parent complaint led to a district decision. Wilson was told not to wear that mask to work.

“This is a socially charged message in our society. But it’s not a political message,” said Tyler Ayres, a civil rights attorney representing Wilson.

“We don’t get to vote on whether or not black lives matter. There’s no political element to it. It’s simply an aspirational statement that we want black lives to matter to everyone,” added Ayres.

On Monday, he submitted the letter on behalf of Wilson to the Alpine School District asking for a public apology. Plans are to file a federal lawsuit if that doesn’t happen. Ayres says they’re not asking for money — they’re just asking for what they say is right.

“We’re asking them to recognize that they made a mistake. And just because an angry parent comes up and says we don’t want that black woman to wear that, doesn’t mean that they should capitulate. And say, okay — we will adhere to your racist ideals,” said Ayres.

Wilson says she loves helping the kids on school buses every day. And, she says, she wishes the district would help her feel supported, too.

“Outside of work I have people yelling Trump stuff at me. Or I have people calling me the N word. So this mask is like the only way I can like support myself,” said Wilson.

“And back myself up. And as the minority to say — that I got my own back.”

The Alpine School District sent ABC4 this statement in response to the letter submitted to them on Monday:

“We discourage employees from wearing or displaying material of a political or culturally sensitive nature or that could be construed as supportive of a particular political or cultural agenda. As public employees and public educators, our focus is on educating students and supporting that endeavor, that which distracts from that purpose is disruptive of the educational process and therefore discouraged.

While at work, employees are expected to remain neutral and not express their political or social issue agendas. Employees have the right as private citizens to express their opinions outside of their work environment and time. We value all employees of Alpine School District. We have been fair and consistent in enforcing Policy 2240. When we become aware of an individual not following the policy, we discuss the policy with the individual and ask that the person adheres to the policy.”

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