Dozens of parents, teachers and some children took part in a series of protests outside various Southland school campuses as part of a statewide “sit-out” or “walk-out” effort to denounce a mandate requiring all K-12 students in California to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Outside Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, protesters marched along the sidewalk outside the school, carrying signs reading “My Body, My Choice,” “Our kids are not lab rats” and “Stop the mandate LAUSD.” A young student held a sign saying “Don’t kick me out of my school.”
As they marched, participants chanted slogans such as “Our children, our choice.” Some passing motorists honked their horns in support.
Similar protests were held outside schools across California, along with dozens of people who gathered near the Huntington Beach Pier, which has been the scene of multiple protests against COVID health rules during the pandemic.
Monday’s walk outs were organized in protest of the state’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for students. The requirement will take effect once a vaccine receives “full approval” from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for all impacted age groups.
Pfizer’s vaccine has full FDA approval for those 16 years and up, and is offered to those as young as age 12 under an emergency use authorization.
“While there continues to be encouraging signs and we’re continuing to see progress with more and more people who maybe were on the fence that are now getting the vaccine … there’s still a struggle to get to where we need to go, and that means we need to do more and we need to do better,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said when he announced the mandate.
He said the proposed mandate is “about protecting our children and school staff, and keeping them in the classroom.” He said depending on when full authorizations for the vaccines are granted by the FDA, the mandate would take effect on Jan. 1, or July 1, 2022.
One protester in Van Nuys Monday morning told KNX Newsradio the rally was not designed to be anti-vaccination, just in opposition to the mandate requiring the shots for students. A Los Angeles Unified School District employee told the station she was forced to get vaccinated due to the district’s mandate for staff, and she did not want her children’s education to be potentially threatened over the issue.
LAUSD students age 12 and older who take part in in-person extracurricular programs were required to receive their first dose by Oct. 3 and their second no later than Oct. 31. All other students aged 12 and up must receive their first dose by Nov. 21, and their second by Dec. 19.
Younger students will have to receive their first dose no later than 30 days after their 12th birthday, and their second dose no later than eight weeks after turning 12.
The mandate applies to all district students, along with charter school students on co-located district school facilities. Students “with qualified and approved exemptions under LAUSD’s existing immunization policies” will be exempt.
Meanwhile, district staffers, including teachers, were required by Monday to receive at least one dose of COVID vaccine, and the second is required by Nov. 15.
Workers who do not have the single dose reported by Monday will be unable to return to work, however, they will not be subject to termination until Nov. 1. Any employees who fail to receive the second dose by Nov. 15 will be “subject to separation from district service.”
On Friday, the district sent a message to families calling vaccinations “an essential part of the multi-layered protection against COVID-19.”
The LAUSD reported Friday that 97% of district administrators and 97% of classroom teachers had loaded their vaccination status into the district’s Daily Pass system as of midday Friday, along with 95% of classified supervisors, such as administrative assistants, plant managers and cafeteria managers.
The district acknowledged that because of the mandate, “there may be some staffing changes at local schools.”
“Our charge remains clear: Los Angeles Unified is committed to providing your child with the best possible education in the safest possible environment,” according to the district. “We know children learn and thrive best with in-person instruction where they can interact with their teachers and classmates, participate in extracurricular activities and access the academic and social-emotional supports they deserve.”
Max Arias, executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents nearly 30,000 LAUSD workers including custodians, bus drivers and teacher assistants, said the district must work to cover staffing shortages by expanding hours and schedules of other workers.
“Additionally, the district must leave the doors open for workers who have not yet received the vaccine,” Arias said. “By pushing for termination, the district is taking a punitive approach that will deny workers re-employment rights. Many of them are the same workers who just a year ago were hailed as heroes for feeding families and supporting our communities during the height of the pandemic. The district’s vaccination mandate has, in effect, created a reduction-in-force and LAUSD should honor the rights of workers by following the process which would grant them up to 39-months to return to work as long as they are vaccinated.”