A Los Angeles Unified School District teacher plays the ukulele as she waits to receive a COVID-19 vaccination at a mass vaccination site in a parking lot at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., on March 1, 2021. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Unified School District repealed its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for staff after laying off more than 800 teachers and staff members over the past two years.
The district’s school board—which enacted some of the nation’s strictest safety protocols during the pandemic—voted 6–1 to remove the mandate Sept. 26, nearly two years after it was enacted in October 2021.
District officials emphasized that their decisions were made based on “evolving science.”
“This was a necessary requirement and it was adopted so that schools could reopen safely based on information that was known then, verified then,” district Supt. Alberto Carvalho said ahead of the vote, adding that he recommended the board end the mandate. “COVID-19 is now in an endemic phase. It has entered the state of stability and increased predictability that comes usually with other viruses such as RSV and the flu.”
However, boardmember George McKenna cast the lone dissenting vote, saying the mandate likely saved lives and that he believed science still supports the need for the COVID-19 vaccine mandates today.
Board President Jackie Goldberg, who advocated for the mandates in 2021, said she did not regret the board’s decision to enact them.
“I do not regret what we did for one moment, not 30 seconds, not one tiny bit,” Ms. Goldberg said during the meeting.
The district’s vaccine mandate received backlash from some teachers and community members, who argued that it violated staff members’ medical and religious freedoms.
More than 800 unvaccinated staff members were fired during the 2021–22 school year for non-compliance, and about 600 teachers were forced to move out of classrooms to teach remotely in the online learning program called City of Angels, according to the parent and teacher advocacy group Los Angeles Educators and Parents United in a previous interview.
The district hasn’t confirmed the number of teachers fired because of being unvaccinated after multiple requests for comment.
Six former employees filed a lawsuit against the district over its mandate in Oct. 2021. The suit is currently pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a separate lawsuit in 2022, more than 20 former school police officers claimed that they were improperly terminated after filing for religious exemptions from the mandate.
Staff who were placed on unpaid leave due to noncompliance may be invited to return under the conditions of their leaves, according to district officials, while those who departed the district or were reassigned to a virtual classroom will be eligible to apply for an in-person position.