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LAUSD Again Delays COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate. A Poll Shows Public Is Divided On The Requirement

A health worker in medical scrubs wearing a blue surgical mask and purple gloves holds a syringe and rolls up the sleeve of a patient, facing away from the camera. The skin of the patient's arm is exposed with the syringe hovering over it as the worker prepares to deliver a shot.
A health worker administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Hollywood High School on June 18, 2021
(Kyle Stokes
/
LAist)
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The Los Angeles Unified school board voted Tuesday to delay a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students. That means students in L.A. Unified schools can attend in-person classes without their shots until at least July 2023.

While many parents at the board meeting spoke up against a vaccine mandate, previously unreleased public opinion survey data shows that Angelenos are deeply divided about such vaccine rules.

Majorities of adults in both Los Angeles City (56.4%) and L.A. County (57.2%) felt children should not be allowed to attend K-12 schools unless they’re vaccinated, according to a survey from Loyola Marymount University.

Those majorities are outside the 3% margin of error — but support for the mandate also “is not a slam dunk,” said Brianne Gilbert, managing director of LMU’s Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles, which conducted the survey in late January and early February.

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Parents in L.A. are especially divided over the mandate. Around 47% of adults with kids in their household supported a mandate, compared with more than 62% of adults without kids at home.

“Parents are not clearly saying that their children should be required to be vaccinated before they go back to school,” Gilbert said. She added later: “There should be more questions for parents. What do they feel? What do they think would be the safest for their kids?”

Gilbert argued this finding could justify the hesitancy of both state leaders and school officials to move forward with student vaccine requirements.

In mid-April, California officials announced they would delay enforcement of a statewide vaccine rule for K-12 students until at least July 2023; LAUSD’s vote Tuesday aligns the state’s largest school district with the rest of California.

LAUSD leaders point out that roughly 83% of the district’s students 12 years and older are already vaccinated.

Among the LMU survey’s other findings:

  • Nearly 70% of Asian respondents felt students should not be allowed to return to school unless they are vaccinated. Opinion was more mixed among Black (58%), white (55%), and Latino/a respondents (53%).
  • When broken down by income bracket, the survey results showed support for the mandate was highest among respondents with the lowest household incomes. More than 61% of those who made $40,000 or less supported a mandate.
  • The survey revealed a predictable partisan divide: Around 40% of respondents who said they leaned conservative supported a mandate, compared with nearly 70% of liberals. Self-described “moderates” was within the margin of error.

Gilbert noted that the timing of the survey — during the comedown from last winter’s omicron surge — likely affected the results.

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”).