Parents keep kids home from school to protest California COVID vaccine mandate

Local news

Across California, some parents kept their children home from school and gathered Monday to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students.

Flyers circulating online called for “sit outs” and “walkouts” to demonstrate against California’s first-in-the-nation mandate, which will require students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to go to school in person once vaccines get full federal approval for their age group.

Rallies were planned outside several Southern California campuses and school district offices Monday morning, with parents and teachers being called on to gather and demonstrate against the mandate.

Grassroots movement Moms on the Ground is one of the groups organizing the protests.

On the group’s Instagram page, mothers in Irvine, Redondo Beach, San Diego, Temecula and other cities commented to say they were keeping their kids home Monday.

Moms on the Ground cofounder and Orange County resident Parisa Fishback said the group is “not anti-vax, just anti-vax mandate for schoolchildren.”

Fishback said Moms on the Ground wants the decision on whether to vaccinate children to be left up to parents.

“To me, the most important right that I have not only as an American or as a Californian but as a human, is those that pertain to my ability to protect my children,” Fishback said. “If I’m going to be stripped of that right, well then I have to take a stand because what’s next? What are they going to take next?”

In announcing the vaccine requirement earlier this month, Newsom said the mandate will add the COVID-19 shot to the list of ten vaccines that children already have to get to go to school, like vaccines for the measles or mumps.

State officials have said they anticipate the requirement, which will be phased-in by grade span, would likely begin for students in grades 7-12 in July. 

Once it takes effect, unvaccinated students will be able to remain enrolled in independent study, but won’t be able to attend in-person classes at both public and private schools.

“We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it,” Newsom said as he announced the mandate Oct. 1.

KTLA spoke with protesters outside Chino Valley Unified School District and the Bonita Unified School District offices, where dozens of people were demonstrating with signs at each location Monday.

“Parents need to have the choice of what they decide for their own children, and we feel like this is our freedom and it’s been taken away,” said Carri Schott who was protesting with other parents. 

The governor has said there will be exemptions for medical reasons and religious beliefs, but did not provide further details. The California Department of Public Health is expected to lay out the scope of exemptions after vaccines get full federal approval for the younger age groups.

Up in state’s the capital, thousands of parents gathered to protest the mandate outside the Capitol Monday, KTLA sister station KTXL in Sacramento reported.

While the mandate has received opposition, many parents throughout the state support the move.

“Protesting something that is ultimately going to to make not just our entire community, but especially our kids, safer seems illogical,” Tisha Banker told KTLA.

And Kathleen Lancaster, who lost her husband to COVID-19, spoke in favor of the mandate, according to KTXL.

“I believe in the science and the research,” Lancaster said. “My kids can’t go to school without vaccines.”

There are districts that have already announced student vaccine mandates.

At Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest district, all students 12 and older will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend classes in person. The children are required to get their first dose no later than Nov. 21, and the second by Dec. 19. 

Culver City Unified was the first in the region to implement a vaccine mandate for eligible students.  Oakland Unified and San Diego Unified have also announced a similar rule for students attending in-person classes.

Children aged 12 to 15 are already eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine under emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which found that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection for younger teens based on testing.

The FDA has fully approved a COVID-19 vaccine for people 16 and older. Approval for the younger children will take more time.

In the next three weeks, federal authorities will discuss making smaller-dose versions available to children between the ages of 5 and 11.

Federal, state and local health experts throughout the country have urged parents to vaccinate their children against COVID-19, which can lead to severe and dangerous complications, like multisystem inflammatory syndrome.

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