Los Angeles Unified School District Postpones Student Vax Mandate

LAUSD to push back deadline for student Covid-19 vaccinations to fall 2022.

QUICK FACTS:
  • The Los Angeles school district—the second largest in the U.S., behind New York—is poised to remove its Jan 10 student coronavirus vaccine mandate, The LA Times reports.
  • In a Friday statement, the district announced plans to delay the mandate until the start of the next school year.
  • While the vaccination rate among its students now tops 87%, the move to postpone will save the district’s more than 30,000 other students 12 and older who are not fully vaccinated from being forced into online, independent study, ABC News notes.
  • Supt. Megan Reilly proposed enforcement of the January deadline would be suspended until fall of 2022, the start of the next school year, according to the Times.
  • The Board of Education will make a final decision on Tuesday.
  • The district’s mandate had previously required all students aged 12 and up to receive their second dose of vaccine by Dec 19, while students taking part in extracurricular programs were required to receive their second dose by Oct 31.
Parents opposed to LAUSD’s student vaccine mandate rally outside the district office in Los Angeles while the school board meets on enforcement of the mandate on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
  • LAUSD’s vaccine requirement delay is a victory for the Children’s Health Defense’s California Chapter, who on October 13, 2021 filed suit against LAUSD in CA Superior Court for their vote to mandate vaccination for students 12 and up. Children’s Health Defense also filed a petition that outlining “all the reasons why LAUSD and its board members lack any legal authority to issue a Covid-19 vaccine requirement at the district level, and requests that the court inform LAUSD, in no uncertain terms, that the vaccine requirement is null and void and LAUSD cannot enforce their illegal mandate,” the chapter—who is accepting donations for their effort—explained.

  • It is also a victory for law firm Facts, Truth, Law Justice, who “went to court to defend its request for a Preliminary Injunction against the District to stop enforcement of the District’s vaccine mandate,” according to the firm’s website.
WHAT BOARD MEMBERS SAID:
  • L.A. school board member Nick Melvoin emphasized academic success for students. “There’s no playbook for navigating school through the pandemic,” Melvoin said. “And the north star of this board has been student success. And that’s meant their physical safety, but also their academic success. And that’s meant different things at different times. In March of 2020, it meant closing schools. In March of 2021, it meant reopening schools.”
  • Melvoin went on to explain how moving large numbers of unvaccinated students into independent study would disrupt the education of both the unvaccinated as well as the vaccinated, the Times reports.
  • Board member Jackie Goldberg—a supporter of Covid-19 vaccines—issued a statement saying the delay was a sensible move, ABC News reports, noting that “taking teachers out of in-person classrooms so they can instruct the much smaller number of unvaccinated students in the state-mandated online independent study program penalizes all students with fewer instructors and larger class sizes.”
  • Tanya Ortiz-Franklin, another LAUSD board member, pointed out how the mandate would have disproportionately affected Black students. “We saw a lot of Black students and students with disabilities and English learners who were [vaccine] hesitant,” said Ortiz-Franklin, who represents South L.A., Carson and San Pedro. “We have a big equity gap in the district generally. We couldn’t perpetuate that by implementing this right away.”
L.A. Unified School District kindergarteners listen to their teacher in their classroom at Brainard Avenue Elementary in Lake View Terrace on April 13, 2021 — the campus’ first day hosting students since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kyle Stokes/LAist)
WHAT TEACHERS ARE SAYING:
  • The pending delay was welcomed by some teachers, who told the Times they believed the program would collapse if thousands more students were suddenly added into it. “Thank goodness vaccines delayed!” said teacher Shawn Fornari.
WHAT PARENTS ARE SAYING:
  • Mr. and Mrs. Mardesic said they had no intention of getting their 12-year-old sixth-grader vaccinated and were worrying about whether to home-school their child or move out of L.A. Unified boundaries entirely. “I’m just wondering if the only victory for us will come when we say, ‘That’s it. We’re done with L.A. Unified,’” Mrs. Mardesic said.
Holding her mother’s hand, Brianna Vivar, 14, looks away while receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from pharmacy technician Mary Tran at a vaccine clinic set up in the parking lot of CalOptima, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Orange, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
BACKGROUND:
  • “The district will continue to require baseline and weekly testing of all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, through January,” ABC News reports. “Beginning in February, only unvaccinated students will be required to undergo weekly testing.”
  • Unvaccinated students would have been placed in an independent study program called City of Angels.
  • 60% of students in the Sacramento City Unified School District (approximately 11,000) have not yet complied with the Jan 31 deadline and could be assigned to independent study if they don’t apply for an exemption, a district spokesperson said, the Times notes.
  • Oakland Unified school board—38% of whose students remain unvaccinated or have not reported their status—pushed back its deadline by a month, according to KTVU news.
  • Culver City Unified—the first California school district to mandate student coronavirus vaccines—has removed its deadline, about 17% of its eligible students (12 and older) being non-compliant.
  • The decision to back down on the student mandate comes just days after the district let go of hundreds of staffers who failed to meet the employee vaccine mandate, Patch reports.

Jon Fleetwood is Managing Editor for American Faith and author of “An American Revival: Why American Christianity Is Failing & How to Fix It.”

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