Students age 12 and older in the Los Angeles school system must be vaccinated before they can return to classrooms next year under one of the toughest anti-COVID mandates enacted in the nation. The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District voted Thursday to require roughly 630,000 students to be vaccinated—those who take part in sports and other extracurricular activities by the end of October and all others by Dec. 19. Students who can't show proof of vaccination won't be permitted to have in-person learning following the end of winter break on Jan. 11.
They will have to work remotely under the LAUSD's independent study program, the AP reports. More than half the county’s residents between 12 and 17 are already fully vaccinated, but about 80,000 students aren’t fully vaccinated yet, according to district officials. "This action is not about violating anybody’s rights," school board member Monica Garcia said. "This action is about doing our job to be able to offer public schools that children can come to school and be safe." The nation’s second-largest school district will be the largest and one of the few to issue such a mandate.
Nearby Culver City imposed a similar policy last month for its 7,000 students. New York City’s school system, the nation’s largest, has only mandated vaccinations for 20,000 student athletes in certain sports considered at high risk of spreading the virus, including wrestling. The school district's mandate could inspire similar actions in other cities, while likely sparking legal challenges from those opposed to vaccination, masking and other COVID-19 regulations. Los Angeles has moved more aggressively than most districts in enacting COVID-19 safety measures.
It tests all students and employees every week, requires masking indoors and outdoors and has ordered employees to be vaccinated. The teachers union applauded the mandate, which it had sought after teachers were ordered to get the shots. Many parents and school board members also overwhelmingly supported the plan. But some parents spoke against the mandate at the LAUSD board meeting, arguing that they should decide what is best for their children. An August poll from the AP and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 55% of adults surveyed supported a vaccine mandate for students 12 and older, although that figure dropped to 42% among parents. (Read more vaccine mandate stories.)