More school districts may eventually follow the example of Los Angeles public schools and impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all students ages 12 and older, but it is not likely to happen overnight.
Concerns over lawsuits, the political bent of a district, and opposition from parents could all prove to be barriers to widespread adoption of vaccine mandates for students.
Los Angeles Unified School District voted last week to require all students 12 and older to be vaccinated by January, following the lead of neighboring Culver City Unified School District, which instituted a student vaccine mandate in mid-August.
But the decision by LAUSD will likely prove more influential since, at over 600,000 students, it is the second-largest school district in the United States.
“Given the novelty of this decision, and given the size and prominence of Los Angeles Unified, people are watching closely to see how this evolves,” said Troy Flint, spokesman for the California School Boards Association. “But overall, I say statewide, people are taking a wait-and-see attitude. I don't expect a huge rush to follow in LAUSD footsteps in the short term.”
So far, only two large districts in Northern California may follow LA’s example. Board members for West Contra Costa Unified, which has over 28,000 students, and Oakland Unified, which has over 50,000 students, will vote next week on whether to mandate vaccines for students.
“If we’re going to move past this ongoing crisis, it’ll be through increasing our numbers of vaccinations, and we need to push that at every level,” Oakland School Board Director Sam Davis recently told the Oaklandside. “Forty percent of the COVID cases in Oakland in August were at middle and high schools. It should be close to nothing if we had everybody vaccinated.”
But another board member, Mike Hutchinson, opposed the mandate, telling the San Francisco Chronicle the proposed mandate opens the door for lawsuits and creates more barriers for students of color and those from low-income families.
School districts in conservative areas might be more likely to oppose mandates than those in liberal areas.
“I think that is very likely,” said Leanne Winner, executive director of the North Carolina School Boards Association. “If you look at the way schools opened up in the state last year, in general, your more conservative areas open school a little bit sooner. And the more liberal pockets within a state are a little more cautious about it.”
But even school boards in more liberal states might not be in a big rush to require students to be vaccinated.
“I anticipate there will be more interest among school districts after a waiting period,” said Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.
Parents opposed to vaccine mandates would also likely push back against such proposals.
“Parents are nervous,” RayShaun Boatmon, an eighth grader at a school in the West Contra Costa District, recently told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Parents lined up to protest outside a school board meeting in August when the Orange County School District considered mandating vaccines for student-athletes.
Penny King, one of the parents at the protest, told a local ABC News affiliate that a vaccine should not be forced on her daughter, a 16-year-old who plays softball. "If she does not want it, she shouldn't have to get it," King said.
In the end, the school board voted not to require student-athletes to be vaccinated.
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Original Author: David Hogberg