STAFFORD — A school nurse who refused to wear her mask in school will be looking for a new job after she said the Board of Education voted to not renew her contract for the next school year and to continue her suspension without pay.

After watching elementary and middle school students struggle with headaches and stomach aches after wearing masks all day in school and not taking proper care of them, Erin Pein said she told school officials in April that she could no longer enforce the mask mandate or wear one herself.

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Pein said she received an email from Superintendent George Chidiac on Tuesday informing her of the board's decision. Chidiac on Wednesday morning did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's request for the final vote tally.

Hundreds came to a rally outside the meeting at the McKinley Elementary School to show support, including GOP gubernatorial candidates Phil Rizzo and Hirsh Singh.

"I had people tell me they drove three hours to get there. There was a lot of support from the whole town and from far. A lot of speakers came out, people made signs, that was nice too," Pein said.

Once Pein's stance became known she made several media appearances including an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

"I've been getting an outpouring of emails from parents all over the place telling me that their child has strep throat, that the doctor has been telling them there's a big outbreak of it. All kinds of things that are potentially from the mask because none of them are wearing them safely," Pein previously told New Jersey 101.5. Public health officials, however, have not reported widespread cases of bacterial infections from mask use.

The Board of Education met in executive session to discuss Pein's employment on April 29 and but did not take a vote because not enough notice was given for the special session, which was part of a scheduled budget meeting. The vote was taken in another executive session on Monday night.

"I spoke with the board and I pleaded with them to consider on my end because I'm trying to advocate for these kids," Pein told New Jersey 101.5. "I honestly thought on the 29th I was making some change. I really thought some of those board members were thinking about it and considering it and I know I had one board member that was on my side and was trying to get the other board members to take a listen and really consider creating a committee to talk about this policy and changing the mask policy."

 

Pein said she will continue to advocate for mask mandates to change when it comes to children and has two rallies scheduled including one on Saturday in the Lincroft section of Middletown.

"I'll be putting some feelers out there for jobs in the fall. Hopefully these mask mandates are dropped by the fall. I've gotten a couple of people reach out to me and I'm keeping a list of those and hoping that something like that comes through," she said.

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