SDUSD School Board Approves Vaccine Mandates For Students, Staff
Speaker 1: (00:00)
San Diego unified has approved a vaccine mandate by
Speaker 2: (00:06)
Trustee Macquarie. I vice president white Hearst pain and Barrera. I
Speaker 1: (00:13)
Board members voted to require full COVID-19 vaccinations for school district staff and students 16 and older. The mandate goes into effect on December 20th. The school board's unanimous decision was taken after hours of sometimes contentious public comment and KPBS education reporter mg Perez is here with more mg. Welcome. Good
Speaker 3: (00:37)
Speaker 1: (00:38)
So who is covered under this vaccine mandate and what do they have to do by December 20th?
Speaker 3: (00:44)
It certainly has been a confusing time, Maureen. Um, but what we know for sure is that the mandate that was approved last night only impact students that are 16 years of age and older. The other students who are younger, uh, it does not apply to at this time, but that could change in the very near future.
Speaker 1: (01:05)
And if the students that are eligible to be vaccinated, that is students 16 and over and district staff, if they refuse to get vaccinated, what happens
Speaker 3: (01:15)
Well for the staff, uh, ultimately termination, uh, there is a process, uh, for them to go through, uh, before that would happen, but that is the threat for staff members, for students. It is simply a matter of putting them in independent study, which is basically distance learning from home. That would be the consequence to not getting vaccinated.
Speaker 1: (01:38)
Now, this mandate doesn't extend, as you mentioned, a student's 12 through 15, but they are currently eligible to be vaccinated against COVID other school districts in California, such as LA and Oakland require those younger students to be vaccinated. Why not? San Diego?
Speaker 3: (01:54)
Here's the very important caveat to that. Uh, the students, uh, 12 and older are under an emergency approval from the FDA. And so San Diego unified decided that they would only put a mandate in place for students who have been, uh, fully approved, uh, for vaccination. And at this moment that includes 16 old and up. Unfortunately, they were not ready to proceed, uh, to lower that. But I'm going to, I'm going to tell you something very interesting that happened. Some people may not know there is a student, a board member who is a voting member of the school board. His name is Zachary Patterson. He is a senior at university city high school, very intelligent. He is the one that steered the conversation to, Hey, maybe we ought to, uh, vaccinate starting at 12 and they, they seriously considered it. And they went back and forth debating it. But the experts who were also involved in the meeting said that at this point, they were not prepared to move ahead with that. And so they are tabling the, the matter of, for at least a month and they'll see if the FDA gives full approval. And then at that point, they will take a vote to move ahead to include those children
Speaker 1: (03:07)
In San Diego, unifies new vaccine mandate. There are some exemptions, but there are not many what circumstances would allow for an exemption.
Speaker 3: (03:16)
A lot of the debate last night was around, uh, children with special needs. Uh, they have IEP, which are legal documents that require they get certain services. Many of them are medically fragile. So in those cases, uh, an exemption would be considered an investigated. Uh, they also brought up, uh, students who are in foster care and homeless students, um, mostly because of the instability. And so they would offer an exemption, um, or at least a consideration for extending the time to get vaccinated in order to, uh, to take care of their situations. Yes,
Speaker 1: (03:52)
Students under 18 have to get parental approval for vaccination. So this has really largely up to parents to see their teenagers get vaccinated. Isn't it?
Speaker 3: (04:01)
Absolutely. And, uh, the meeting was virtual last night. Uh, there was nobody in the administration building, but there were hundreds of parents outside the building protesting, uh, on both sides. Uh, and it is ultimately up to them to decide if their child will get vaccinated or not, but they of course will then have to live with the consequences as well.
Speaker 1: (04:23)
You say a large number of vaccine, opponents and supporters at the meeting. We have some of the comments from both sides. Let's listen to a few. Now,
Speaker 4: (04:31)
This forcefulness scares me. It feels a little like my daughter is going to be treated like a lab rat in an experiment.
Speaker 5: (04:39)
I'm an advocate for Liberty, for freedoms and for choice, the fact that this is even an agenda item right now demonstrates the board's myopic view of this issue
Speaker 6: (04:49)
To live alone in a bunker and vaccinated, or just work and go to school online, go for it. Otherwise we live in a shared community.
Speaker 4: (04:56)
I urge the board members to take into consideration working student's circumstances, trying to keep their families safe from COVID. When there are people who wish to not protect public health.
Speaker 1: (05:05)
That was Jenny stock, Chris Bush, Mica, and Sarah Shinta. Some of those who commented on the vaccine mandate plan during last night's school board meeting mg, there were reports that many in the anti-vaccination group did not actually have any children enrolled in San Diego unified district. So why were they there?
Speaker 3: (05:27)
Well, um, politics might be one quick answer, but the public comment section of board meetings is exactly that it is open to anyone in the public. And, uh, there were lots of people there for the rally out, outside on the front lawn, who said they were there with the mission. They were there with a message. They were there to support those parents who believe that mandatory vaccination is wrong. So plain and simple, that's it, there were almost a thousand people signed up who wanted to speak. Uh, usually they, they limit public comment to just 20 minutes. They extended it to an hour, but that went past an hour to about an hour and a half. And that was not including any of the experts or presentations and then the debate from the board. So from start to finish, it was over three hours of discussion before the decision was made,
Speaker 1: (06:19)
Our students and staff, member's going to have to submit by December 20th proof of vaccination.
Speaker 3: (06:26)
Yes. So the 20th winter break is the deadline to be fully vaccinated. So if you're getting a dose two doses, you have to back that up to about Thanksgiving, uh, for the first dose. Uh, so if you've not had the first dose by Thanksgiving, then you're not going to make the deadline of December 20th. So there are lots of logistics to be worked out there. And, and when they passed the mandate last night, uh, the board was very clear about communication. They need to communicate clearly with parents so that they understand what the rules are exactly and how they can go about meeting them.
Speaker 1: (07:02)
Now, some opponents warn that students and staff may leave San Diego unified by the hundreds because of the vaccine mandate. You told us that some staff members may be fired if they don't get fully vaccinated in time, could the district suffer negative effects from this mandate?
Speaker 3: (07:20)
The answer to that is absolutely. There were teachers last night who spoke and spoke proudly that they do not support mandatory vaccinations and that they would leave, um, if they were forced to get vaccinated. So really it, you know, like everything else with COVID, it's never simple. It's never, you know, crystal clear. And so we will find out, uh, you know, in the coming weeks, uh, what that will look like and whether people are really serious about the threat to quit
Speaker 1: (07:50)
San Diego unified, we'll be releasing more information about the vaccine mandate rollout today. And we'll have that on KPBS evening edition at five on KPBS television. I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter mg Perez. And thank you so much.
Speaker 3: (08:08)
The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday voted unanimously to recommend mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for all eligible students and district employees.
After hearing from medical professionals and the public, both pro and con, board members approved two recommendations:
— requiring district employees, partners, contractors and other adults who work directly with students and district employees on district property to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 20. The mandate would be a condition of employment and a requirement for contracted services.
— a staggered approach to have all eligible students vaccinated against COVID-19, as a condition of attending in-person learning. The timeline for requiring the mandated vaccination will be aligned with full vaccine approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
Mandatory testing will be required for all unvaccinated students until full FDA approval of the vaccine for their age group.
"It could not be more clear that this is the right thing for us to do tonight," said board President Richard Barrera.
Barrera said it was also very important for the district to ensure that students' parents and district employees are well-informed about the mandate and important deadlines.
"That level of communication will be absolutely critical as we move forward," Barrera said.
Board Vice President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne said the district has an obligation to keep both students and society safe.
Whitehurst-Payne said she donates to Rotary Club's efforts to reduce polio rates across the globe.
"I feel the same way about this," Whitehurst-Payne said, adding that vaccines are a common part of health.
According to a district presentation, there will be a phased approach for students:
— Stage 1: Students age 16 and older would be required to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 20 to participate in in-person classes and extracurricular activities. Those unvaccinated can enroll to learn virtually.
— Stage 2: Students age 12 and older would be required to be fully vaccinated at an undetermined date, depending on the FDA's full approval; and
— Stage 3: Students age 5 and older would be required to be fully vaccinated at an undetermined date, depending on the FDA's full approval.
According to the presentation, students eligible for the vaccine, but not vaccinated by established deadlines, will be required to participate in independent study programs. Parental consent will be required for all students under the age of 18.
Students will be afforded the opportunity for medical exemptions, but not one for religion or personal belief.
Certain students may be conditionally enrolled via in-person learning if they are in one of these groups — foster youth, homeless, migrant, military family or those with an individual education plan (for children with a disability identified under the law).
Unvaccinated students will not be permitted to participate in extracurricular activities, unless the student is below the age range of FDA's full approval or has an exemption.
According to the district, employees will be allowed to use up to two hours of personal business to be vaccinated during their work day, time off for any reaction to the vaccine, and take up to two hours during their work day to take a dependent minor to be vaccinated.
Employees not complying with the district mandate may face disciplinary action, "up to and including termination," according to the district.
While board members discussed the proposed mandates in a virtual format, a large crowd opposed to any mandate rallied outside the district headquarters, located on Normal Street in the University Heights neighborhood.
During an hourlong public comment period, board members heard 51 people, mainly parents of children attending San Diego Unified schools.
Those in favor stressed the long-term harm COVID-19 poses to children and district employees, while opponents said the coronavirus vaccine isn't worth the risk.
Dr. Kyle Edmonds, who works for UC San Diego, said vaccine mandates have been common for decades.
San Diego-area resident Wendy Wheatcroft, a mother of three, urged the board not to let "conspiracy theories and anti-government rage" dissuade them from having safer schools.
San Diego resident Mari Magstadt, a mandate opponent, said the board was overstepping its authority.
"As a mother, this is where I draw the line," she said, "We've actually all had COVID and we are fine."
San Diego resident Steve Welty described himself as pro-vaccine, but anti-mandate and called on the board to produce more science and data to convince skeptical parents.
Welty said the best way to get people vaccinated is "not to force them. Keep it a choice. Many more will chose the shot."
Last week, a law firm representing Let Them Choose, a splinter group of Let Them Breathe — which opposes mask mandates — sent a letter to the school district asking it to not approve a vaccine mandate.
Sent by the Aannestad, Andelin & Corn firm, based in Cardiff-By-The- Sea, the letter stated that if the district approved a mandate, "Let Them Choose will consider all available options, including a lawsuit to seek an injunction against SDUSD, preventing it from implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate and excluding students who choose to remain unvaccinated."
San Diego Unified joins school districts in Los Angeles and Oakland that have also recently approved vaccine mandates.
SDUSD Interim Superintendent Lamont Jackson said the district will remain committed to teaching students, even if some can't be on campus because of their vaccination status.
Despite strong opposition from some parents "my hope is that we as a community can come together," Jackson said.
"We may not always agree, but we can have healthy discourse," Jackson said.