A COVID-19 vaccine mandate went into effect at New West Charter School in the Sawtelle neighborhood of Los Angeles last Monday, but some students did not comply and are now suing the school over their right to be in the classroom.
When the six involved students — who do not want to be named — showed up for school, they say they thought they would be able to go to class, despite not being vaccinated. When they were denied, they shot video on their cellphones while sitting outside the school.
“We’re being threatened to be suspended because we don’t have the COVID-19 vaccine and we’re being refused of the right to attend school,” one of the students said in the video that was posted to social media.
They say they felt segregated and discriminated against.
“I was just mainly embarrassed and felt like I was put on the spot in front of everyone,” one of the girls told KTLA Tuesday.
Police were called to keep the peace and the students say the principal eventually told them they’d be suspended if they didn’t leave. School officials say the students were not “locked out,” but rather just asked to leave.
“We were gonna stay here with the intention that somehow we would be let in later on,” another one of the students said. “Or that day, maybe the administration would come to their senses and be like ‘They’re negative, let’s think logically now. Let’s just let them go and get their education.'”
The students say the plan was never a staged sit-in.
The charter school says 96% of their students are already vaccinated and that parents have received multiple reminders and knew if they didn’t vaccinate their kids, the only option would be independent learning.
“We have worked very hard since last October to ensure every single parent knew that, upon our return from winter break, we would be implementing a new policy requiring that every student provide proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test to be allowed on campus,” the school said in a statement. “While we respect the right of parents to make their own choices for their children, our obligation is to our entire school community. When we have committed to implement a policy to assure parents that our campus is safe for their students, we will stand by that commitment.”
The school went on to say that a lawsuit challenging their vaccination policy was filed last week by “Let Them Choose” — a non-profit organization against vaccine mandates and school closures — 90 days after the policy had already been in place.
“The lawsuit is currently pending and no order has been issued to prevent NWC from maintaining its policy at this time,” the school told KTLA.
But the students believe the law is on their side.
“In California, independent study cannot be involuntary and if you dispute independent study, you get a hearing,” said Jennifer Kennedy, an attorney against vaccine mandate. “The girls believe that they were going to get a hearing on this issue and would be allowed to attend school until the hearing was concluded.”
One of the students told KTLA that kids she knows from other schools have messaged her after seeing the video, asking why she’s not vaccinated.
“They literally come to message me to fight me about it,” she said. “One, why is their business? And two, I don’t know why they should care and it’s my personal information.”
School districts, including Los Angeles Unified, have tried to mandate vaccines but legal cases are currently being held up in court. In the meantime, some charter schools like New West are implementing and enforcing the new rule.