The Board of the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) voted unanimously on Tuesday to institute a vaccination mandate for all staff and eligible students.
According to the mandate plan, all employees of the SDUSD, as well as all students ages 16 and up, are to be fully vaccinated by December 20th. Other students, specifically groups ages 12 and up and ages 5 and up, are to be vaccinated at a later date pending FDA approval of vaccines for younger people.
The only people exempt from the SDUSD mandate are those with medical exemptions, with no religious exemptions being offered. For employees, a vaccination is now a “condition of employment and a requirement for contracted services”. However, students who are not vaccinated by the end of the year will begin the second half in independent study programs and virtual learning. But those vaccinated will also not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities.
According to the SDUSD, the second largest school district in the state after the Los Angeles Unified School District with over 121,000 students and over 13,000 staff, already has 65% of all eligible students and 80% of all eligible employees at least partially vaccinated.
The San Diego Unified Board of Education has now approved the proposed COVID vaccine mandate for staff and students 16 and older. Roughly 65 percent of all eligible students and 80 percent of eligible employees are already at least partially vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
— San Diego Unified (@sdschools) September 29, 2021
SDUSD board members all voiced their approval of the mandate before and after voting on Tuesday, with all noting that a mandate was the right way to go to help keep students safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Parents right now are sending their students to school want to know we’re doing everything that we can to keep those students safe and we know vaccines are the most effective strategy to prevent the spread of COVID,” explained SDUSD Board President Richard Barrera on Tuesday in the virtual meeting. “Both parents and staff, the overwhelming majority that we hear from, are saying this is the right step to take. It could not be more clear that this is the right move for us to take tonight.”
Parents, members of public sharply divided over mandate
Before the vote, numerous members of the public spoke for more than an hour. While many approved of the mandate, others, including many SDUSD staff, opposed the measure and were afraid of what might happen to them for remaining unvaccinated.
“Your intentions may be good, but like the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” said San Diego elementary school teacher and unvaccinated teacher representative Brenda Taylor to the board. “This flawed proposal that you are hiding behind the word of science as if it’s absolute. We know that science is not perfect.”
Despite the board meeting being held remotely, dozens of supporters and those in opposition to the mandate gathered outside the SDUSD Board of Education on Tuesday.
Those in support noted that the vaccines were for the health and safety for all and that science backed up their reasoning.
“In order to ensure the safety for all, we need as many people as possible to vaccinate,” said Dean Carter, a parent of two SDUSD students who was part of the pro-mandate group yesterday, to the Globe on Wednesday. “I don’t know why anyone would oppose this. None of us do. That’s why we were out there yesterday, to show that a large majority of parents wanted this. A large majority of San Diego residents wanted this. When it comes to kids, we can’t understand why some parents would rather risk death for them when prevention is so easy. It’s crazy to think they are pro-kids dying.”
Those against the mandate, led by a group called “Let Them Choose” countered the others on Tuesday by pointing out long-term effects of the vaccine on younger people and that it should still boil down to personal choice in the matter.
“The responsible thing to do is to see long-term studies on this, to not be seeing recalls, to not be seeing side effects,” said one parent on Tuesday. “There are some parents, even if they saw those long-term studies, they wouldn’t feel good about giving their kids the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Let Them Choose founder Sharon McKeeman added, “We’ve seen them before not honor parents’ voices and we hope they do. If they don’t, we’re ready to take legal action against a mandate if it’s passed.”
San Diego’s mandate follow’s a string of other school-wide mandates for eligible students and staff, including one for the LAUSD system earlier this month. San Diego’s full vaccination mandate deadline is currently set for December 20, 2021.
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