The possibility of vaccine mandates at Washington

Image by Venya Karpelevitch.

With President Biden requiring Covid-19 vaccination for all workers at companies with 100+ employees, mandates for schools have begun to be a contested topic. On Sep 9, 2021, the Los Angeles Unified School District brought to a vote a provision to mandate vaccines for all students over the age of 12. On September 18, the provision passed and a mandate was rolled out. Some speculate that Washington High School, and the FUSD, may follow. Though the status of a mandate is not clear thus far, the district is exploring the idea.  “I requested that district staff provide the board with information about vaccine mandates as some other districts have moved in that direction,” says FUSD Board of Education trustee Dianne Jones The fate of a vaccine mandate lies in the evidence for and against it. There are many issues researchers will have to consider for a vaccine mandate, like social lives of students, and ability to learn online. Sadly for many students, online learning and the pandemic affected their education and social life. A teacher at Washington, who wishes to be anonymous, says, “I’ve asked throughout the course of the year, hey, if you could, would you go back? Nearly every single [student] said no, they would never go back”. This sentiment did not carry through to some students, who say that their education would not be affected by going back to online learning, “except for my drama class, because it would be awkward”, says a Washington Junior. Luckily for the people of Fremont, 77% of people ages 16 and older in Alameda County are fully vaccinated. The main concern with vaccine mandates is the conflict it may create, especially with parents. A parent of a local high school freshman, who prefers to remain anonymous, raised such concerns: she did not want to get a vaccine that was not, according to her, “fully approved”, and she felt that medical decisions should not be forced on her or her child. The conflict that could be created by a vaccine mandate is something the school and the district would likely seek to avoid. There are also unanswered questions as to what will happen to the students who are currently unable to get vaccinated, as well as elementary and middle school students who have no green light for vaccination. Would students be forced to stay out of school after their 16th birthday until they get vaccinated? What happens when K-8 students get the ability to be vaccinated? What will the challenges against the vaccine mandate be?

 These questions make some skeptical about the benefits of a vaccine mandate. But, as the Delta variant continues to sweep the country, Washington High School might be vulnerable. “Everybody is still around each other,” a Washington junior notes. “There is not much social distancing.” A Washington teacher also believes that there is more need for proper precautions than there is for strict vaccination requirements. As many districts start adopting vaccine mandates, we must keep an eye out for conflicts that arise with them.

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