LOS ANGELES (CNS) — On a day they heard an earful from parents upset about a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students, members of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education asked Tuesday that the district explore expanding the mandate for students and staff to include LAUSD-authorized charter schools operating on private sites.
The district's current mandate applies to LAUSD campuses and charter schools that are co-located on district school facilities.
LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg raised the issue Tuesday, asking interim Superintendent Megan Reilly to "try to establish an effective and reasonable timeline for independent charters schools that have been authorized by the LAUSD Board of Education and operate on private sites to also implement the district's employee and student COVID vaccination requirements."
"Everyone says all the time that these are all our kids. In terms of health, I believe that entirely," she said.
Board member Scott Schmerelson also backed the idea, saying, "Even though the charter schools have a great deal of autonomy, they're still public institutions that we regulate."
He said his office has received emails from "charter parents" calling for the mandate to include their schools, "because they do not want students to be in attendance with unvaccinated, eligible students and adults."
LAUSD students age 12 and older who take part in in-person extracurricular programs were required to receive their first dose by Oct. 3 and their second no later than Oct. 31. All other students aged 12 and up must receive their first dose by this Sunday, and their second by Dec. 19.
Younger students will have to receive their first dose no later than 30 days after their 12th birthday, and their second dose no later than eight weeks after turning 12. The district is recommending, but not mandating COVID shots for students aged 5-11.
Reilly said district staff will explore the idea, including the board's legal authority to impose such a rule for charters.
A group of parents rallied outside LAUSD headquarters on Tuesday, waving signs and chanting slogans condemning the mandate for students as an imposition on their rights as parents to make health decisions for their children. Other parents called into the board meeting to voice their opposition.
"You need to stop this nonsense," one parent told the board, calling the requirement an "unlawful mandate of an unapproved, experimental, investigative, not-yet-proven-to-be-safe" vaccine.
"It is our legal parental right to ensure we make sound health care decisions for our children," she said. "This is not LAUSD's decision."
She said there have been few outbreaks among students despite them being back in school for the entire semester.
"The pandemic is over," she said. "It is over."
Another parent told the board members they have "no idea of the long-term effects" of the vaccine, saying "something that should take decades to come to market was developed in a year."
Another parent said, "You guys have sold your souls to the devil."
The parents urged the board to eliminate the vaccine mandate for students, particularly for those aged 12-15.
The district is recommending, but not requiring, COVID vaccines for students aged 5-11.
Meanwhile, district officials announced during the board meeting that they would be relaxing some other COVID rules in the spring semester. Most notably, the district's current requirement that all students be tested for COVID every week will only apply to unvaccinated students — those under 12, those who are conditionally admitted and those with approved exemptions.
The district will also lift the requirement that students wear masks outdoors at campuses where 85% or more of students are fully vaccinated. Indoor mask-wearing requirements will remain in place.
District officials told the board that 100% of LAUSD staff working at school campuses are fully vaccinated. Monday was the deadline for LAUSD employees to be vaccinated. District officials reported earlier that 97% or more of its staff have met the requirement.
In a statement late Monday, an LAUSD representative said, "Employees working in-person in Los Angeles Unified have been vaccinated. There are a few employees who still have until the end of the day today (Monday) to upload the record of their second vaccine dose. Employees who have not been vaccinated and who have not received reasonable accommodations will be continuing through the dismissal process."