PUBLIC ASKS: Is it true a school board member attended a BLM rally even though she insists students need to remain at home because of COVID-19?

QUESTION: Is it true that Alamance-Burlington school board member Patsy Simpson went to a “Black Lives Matter” rally in downtown Graham this past weekend, even though she has voted repeatedly to keep ABSS students at home due to the coronavirus pandemic?

ANSWER: Simpson confirmed to the newspaper this week that she’d attended a protest in downtown Graham this past Saturday night, though she described it as a response to the violence that took place last week at the U.S. Capitol, not a “Black Lives Matter” protest. A video showing Simpson at the protest last weekend later circulated online with a caption reading, “Keep the kids out of school. Tells us to stay home. Yet she’s protesting in the streets of Graham while she’s [supposed] to be in quarantine, according to her post.”

ABSS students have been receiving their instruction remotely – at home, via computer – since COVID-19 emerged in the state in March of last year. School board members voted 5-2 this week to resume in person instruction in March [see related story, this edition].

Simpson self-quarantined after learning she may have been exposed to COVID-19 through a family member, she said Wednesday in an interview with The Alamance News. “I was potentially exposed on December 26 or December 27,” Simpson elaborated. “With the delay in contact tracing, I self-quarantined and, yes, I made that statement on Facebook.” Simpson said she had not tested positive for the virus and insisted she had worn a face mask and adhered to six-foot social distancing guidelines during the protest, contrary to criticisms lodged after the video was circulated on social media.

As a cancer survivor who’s considered at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, Simpson recalled this week that she has stayed at home for the most part since the coronavirus pandemic began. “I know how serious this virus is; I’ve had too many family members affected by it,” she told the newspaper.

Simpson also acknowledged the mixed message she might have given by attending the protest, while maintaining her opposition to reopening schools. “I don’t know what that has to do with my right to go out and stand in downtown Graham,” she added.

“As an elected official, I have been told that [my position on this issue] is something my constituents and the people I represent may not like,” Simpson said Wednesday. “I respect that, but they have to understand I’m a person, as well. I was so disappointed in what happened at our Capitol, I had to take a stance. I was frustrated, seeing on the news what’s happening in our country. And I needed to get out of my house. I don’t know what that has to do with my right to go out and stand in downtown Graham. It was one night this past weekend. I’m so tired of being in the house, and I said [to my daughter], ‘Let’s go do this.’”

Simpson said she’d found out about the protest on Facebook and “felt as an American citizen, it would give me an opportunity to express my disappointment” in the violence that occurred in Washington, D.C. last week. She estimated that about 10 people attended the protest in downtown Graham this past Saturday night.