The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) fired 496 employees for not complying with the District vaccine mandate on Tuesday. And 600 more are on the chopping block.
The LAUSD COVID-19 vaccination mandate was first announced in the late summer, following the statewide school worker mandate announced by Governor Gavin Newsom in August. The LAUSD board set up an October 19th date for employees their first dose by, with a second dose date by November 15th to allow for two shot vaccinations. Those who did not comply could then be fired afterwards.
On the first dose-deadline in October, the LAUSD announced that 97% of it’s 73,000 employees were vaccinated, leaving around 2,200 unvaccinated who had not received a medical or religious exemption. Many of them were placed on leave that month for not getting at least one dose. By Tuesday, when the first terminations began to be issues, the District reported that nearly 99% of LAUSD employees had been vaccinated.
However, despite the high vaccination percentage, the school board still voted 7-0 to let go of 496 employees who remained unvaccinated. Officials maintained that the firings were necessary due to the health and wellness risks that unvaccinated individuals posed to others.
“Parting ways with individuals who choose not to be vaccinated is an extremely difficult, but necessary decision to ensure the safety of all in our school communities,” said interim Superintendent Megan Reilly in a statement on Tuesday. “We wish everyone the best in their future endeavors and encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”
Even after the firings on Tuesday, LAUSD officials said that the remaining employees who are unvaccinated without cause, currently numbering around 600, can expect to be fired soon. Despite more firings occurring soon, LAUSD board members noted the positives to the vaccines and encouraged unvaccinated employees who are or will be fired to vaccinate, as they will be eligible for reemployment once they do.
“Despite no one’s excitement at dismissing over 400 staff members, the overall majority of our employees have been vaccinated and one of the reasons we’ve been able to keep schools open since August,” added Board Vice President Nick Melvoin.
Meanwhile, fired employees fretted over the decision on Tuesday and Wednesday, with many telling the board that firing experienced teachers will only hurt students by severing close, emotional-seeking support contact with them.
“I’ve got 24 years and I just want to be back on my school site with the students that I love, with the staff that I love, with the school that hired me,” said district employee Tracey Schroeder on Tuesday. “On behalf of all the teachers, please reconsider. There is natural immunity. … There’s choice. And there’s no need for such extreme measures.”
LAUSD employee, student vaccination mandates
Others noted the now real risk of court battles.
“I’m somewhere between emotionally distraught and blindingly angry,” another fired district employee who wished to remain anonymous told the Globe on Wednesday. “There’s already lawsuits out against the mandate, and now a lot of us are looking at other legal action we can take. They don’t care about choice, or deciding what you put in your body or any of that. And now 500 good people lost their jobs. For now.”
In addition to more layoffs, the school district has to contend with as many as 34,000 unvaccinated students moving to independent study programs by January 10th, when the second semester begins, for failing to meet the LAUSD student vaccination mandate. 15% of the roughly 600,000 students in the system are currently unvaccinated, have received one dose, or have medical exemptions. Transient students such as the homeless, those in foster care, children from military families, or those who have certain special education needs are under conditional admission.
“34,000 students suddenly going independent study is crazy,” said Maria, a Los Angeles teacher who has a few students in her class likely being removed next month at the mandated vaccine deadline. “The logistics of that is staggering. I try and speak well of my school district when I can, but I really don’t think they know what they’re doing on this one.”
Further independent study details for affected students, as well as more firings of unvaccinated teachers, will likely occur in the next few weeks.