Los Angeles school board fires 500 unvaccinated employees

Pupils are behind in being immunised against Covid-19

A child receives a dose of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine at an event launching school vaccinations in Los Angeles, California. AFP

About 500 Los Angeles Unified School District employees were fired this week for refusing to comply with a mandate that they be vaccinated against Covid-19, while some 34,000 pupils have not yet been vaccinated as required.

The school board voted 7-0 in separate motions on Tuesday to terminate 496 employees, who make up less than 1 per cent of the district’s approximately 73,000 workers.

Most of those fired had likely been on leave since mid-October when staffers were to have received at least their first vaccine dose, The Los Angeles Daily News reported. Employees were required to have received their second dose by November15.

“Parting ways with individuals who choose not to be vaccinated is an extremely difficult but necessary decision to ensure the safety of all in our school communities,” interim Superintendent Megan Reilly said in a statement. “We wish everyone the best in their future endeavours and encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”

Meanwhile, with thousands of pupils not yet complying with the mandate, there is no longer enough time for children who have not received their first shot to be fully inoculated by the January 10 start of the second term, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The school district is one of several large districts in California to adopt their own rules requiring pupils to receive the Covid-19 vaccination before a statewide policy takes effect after federal officials fully approve immunisations by age group. The state policy, announced by Governor Gavin Newsom in October, is not expected to go into place before July, but the precise date is still unknown.

Districts including San Diego Unified, Sacramento City Unified, Oakland and West Contra Costa are among those that have deadlines for pupil vaccine policies scheduled to take effect in early 2022. The policies vary according to district, with some allowing pupils to opt for weekly testing and others making the shot a requirement for in-person classes.

In Los Angeles, pupils who are not fully vaccinated — or exempt — will be forced into the district’s independent study programme or will have to leave the Los Angeles public school system.

Shifting 34,000 pupils into independent study would be challenging because the programme faces staffing shortages, the Times reported.

In a statement on Wednesday, Los Angeles Unified said about 85 per cent of the district’s approximately 600,000 pupils are in compliance with the mandate requiring those 12 and older to receive the Covid-19 shots.

That percentage includes pupils who have received at least one vaccine dose, those with a medical exemption or those who qualify for conditional admission to the district, the Times reported. This last group includes homeless or foster youths, pupils whose families are in the military and certain special education pupils.

Of the 496 employee dismissals, 418 were classified employees who are non-credentialed but critical staff that can include positions such as instructional aides, custodians, cafeteria workers and others.

Updated: December 10th 2021, 7:45 PM