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LAUSD Board Approves Vaccine Requirement for Students 12 And Older

An image of a vaccination station inside an LAUSD school gym. A sign on a table in the foreground reads "Los Angeles Unified School District Vaccination Station V1." Masked workers are seen in the background near a sign that says "Next Patient" in white letters on a green background.
Workers prepare a vaccination station at LAUSD's Panorama High School during a media tour of the campus on March 10, 2021.
(Kyle Stokes
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The Los Angeles Unified School District's Board of Education will officially require that students ages 12 and older be vaccinated for COVID-19 if they want to attend classes on campus.

Six school board members — George McKenna, Mónica García, Nick Melvoin, Jackie Goldberg, Tanya Ortiz Franklin, and board president Kelly Gonez — voted in favor of the vaccine requirement in a special meeting Thursday.

Board member Scott Schmerelson recused himself from the vote, saying he could not participate "due to a conflict of interest with Pfizer," but that he stands "with my colleagues in supporting science and responsible public health policies."

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McKenna stressed the need to keep kids safe from the virus.

Gonez acknowledged the "challenging" nature of the decision and that some families will have questions.

LAUSD is now by far the largest school district in the nation to impose such a requirement. The move could potentially invite legal challenges — but it could also pave the way for other districts to follow suit.

"My bet is that other districts will wait to see what happens with challenges [to LAUSD's vaccine requirement]," University of California Hastings College of Law professor Dorit Reiss, who studies vaccine mandates and related legal issues, told LAist. "If this is challenged, and a challenge is rejected quickly, we may see a domino effect with a lot more going forward."

The student vaccine requirement will not take full effect until January. Students who are older than 12 would need to receive their first dose by Nov. 21 and their second dose by Dec. 19 — which is the start of the district's three-week winter break.

Halloween Vaccination Deadline For Extracurricular Activities

But students in extracurricular programs, such as sports, face earlier deadlines: those eligible students must get their first dose by Oct. 3 and their second dose by "no later than October 31."

According to the plan voted on, "All other students must receive their first vaccine dose by no later than 30 days after their 12th birthday, and their second dose by no later than 8 weeks after their 12th birthday."

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Students will have to prove they got the shots by uploading a copy of their vaccine record to the Daily Pass they use enter campus each day.

The vaccine mandate also applies to students in "co-located" charter schools — that is, the privately-managed but publicly-funded schools housed on LAUSD campuses that normally operate outside district control.

Students who have "qualified and approved exemptions" from other state-required vaccinations for public school students will not have to receive COVID-19 shots.

LAUSD already requires all faculty and staff to be vaccinated as a condition of their employment with the district — a step further than the state, which allows staff who refuse to get the shots to take regular COVID-19 tests instead.

In K-12 school settings countywide, between August 15 and 29, there were 5,207 COVID cases among students and 729 staff cases reported, with the vast majority occurring at LAUSD, which tests everyone weekly.

The L.A. County Health Department does not report the number of school cases by age group.Last month, neighboring Culver City Unified became the first school district in California, if not the nation, to enact its own student vaccination mandate.

What questions do you have about K-12 education in Southern California?
Kyle Stokes reports on the public education system — and the societal forces, parental choices and political decisions that determine which students get access to a “good” school (and how we define a “good school”).

Updated September 9, 2021 at 7:13 PM PDT
Updated September 9, 2021 at 4:41 PM PDT
This story has been updated.
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