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Supreme Court Justice Steps In, Decides NYC Schools Vaccine Mandates Can Stay In Place

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


There are likely to be many cases that head to the courts regarding vaccine mandates, but a major one was just decided for New York City schools.

In this case a group of four teachers brought a case to seek an emergency injunction to stop the mandate set by Mayor Bill de Blasio but they were thwarted by liberal Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, CNN reported.

Sotomayor did not refer the request to the other Supreme Court justices, or comment on her action, likely signaling they agreed with her decision. In August, Justice Amy Coney Barrett likewise rejected an effort to block Indiana University’s vaccine mandate.

In court papers, lawyers for the teachers argued that New York City, as well as the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, have placed an “unconstitutional burden” on public school teachers. They wanted the high court to block the mandate while the appeals process played out.

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In August, New York city officials issued an order requiring Department of Education staff who “work in-person” in a school setting or building to submit proof of at least one dose of vaccination of Covid-19.

The attorneys for the teachers said that rather than allowing their clients to opt out and submit to weekly testing, the mandate “forces unvaccinated public-school employees to go on unpaid leave for nearly a year.”

“As the number of unvaccinated is small compared to that of the vaccinated, there is no basis to mandate vaccines in lieu of weekly testing,” the attorneys argued.

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The teachers had various concerns about the vaccine, including being frightened of any possible long term effects, and they said that the mandate “threatens the education of thousands of children in the largest public-school system in the country and violates the substantive due process and equal protection rights afforded to all public-school employees.”

The New York City mayor defended the mandate on Friday saying that it is the best way to protect unvaccinated children from COVID-19.

“The bottom line is this mandate has worked and the goal was to protect kids, including our youngest kids who can’t be vaccinated yet, and to ensure that families knew schools would be safe,” the mayor said.

“So, this is – look, our schools are precious, our kids are precious. There’s nothing else in our society that is as central to everything we hope for as our schools, and parents, when they send that child to school, that is entrusting our schools, the safety of their child,” he said.

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He argued that “mandates work” as he referenced other similar rules in his city.

“We put in mandates for public employees. We put in our indoor dining mandate over the last two months, vaccinations in New York City have gone up 45 percent,” the mayor said.

“And in New York City today, about 83 percent of all adults have had at least one dose. So mandates work, they make us safer,” he said.

After a lower court temporarily blocked the mandate Mayor de Blasio pushed the deadline back to Friday at 5 PM.

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“If you have not have gotten that first dose Friday, 5 p.m., we will assume you are not coming to work on Monday and you will not be paid starting Monday and we will fill your role with a substitute or an alternative employee,” he said.

The mayor said that 97 percent of employees at The Department of Education in his city have gotten at least one vaccine dose, including 90 percent of teachers and 97 percent of principals.

“Vaccinations are our strongest tool in the fight against COVID-19 – this ruling is on the right side of the law and will protect our students and staff,” New York City’s Department of Education said, celebrating the Supreme Court Justice’s decision.

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