A few hundred miles away from Phoenix city limits, a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate is in place for school-aged children. In Arizona, however, viewpoints speculate little chance of such a ruling being implemented.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for children in grades K-12; students could be required as soon as next fall to be inoculated to attend public and private schools in person.
There is currently no statewide vaccine mandate or mask mandate in Arizona, although some school districts, businesses and forms of public transportation require facemasks.
One of these is Phoenix Elementary School District, where spokeswoman Linda Jeffries says the district has a “certified mitigation plan that governs what happens on our campuses, in our classrooms, and how we are going to keep students and staff safe.”
Part of that plan requires that students, staff, and visitors on their campuses are required to wear face coverings.
Eric Kurland, a former teacher, believes that the vaccine would make the situation in the classroom better regarding COVID-19 but does not anticipate the vaccine being mandated.
“Education has been interrupted so much due to kids having to go into quarantine,” said Kurland.
Kurland did make it a point to say that he doesn’t believe the kids have any issues with wearing masks and that they are following the parents’ lead.
“Kids don’t care, kids only care because their parents told them to care,” said Kurland. “They go out in a 110-degree weather running around sweating; they don’t care, they have no problem, they’re resilient.”
Regarding the vaccine being mandated, the Arizona Legislature’s intent is that it is not up to the individual schools or school districts whether or not to impose vaccine requirements. There was an attempt to pass a law that would have prevented schools from requiring proof of vaccination for COVID-19.
The law was held unconstitutional, not because of its text, but because of how it was tacked onto legislation concerning different subject.
The current laws are set up in a way that makes it possible for the Arizona Department of Health Services to make a mandate for the vaccine, says Rose Law Group Attorney Logan Elia, who points out the schools don’t necessarily need to carry out that mandate.
“The Department of Health Services would make the mandate and then schools would be responsible for enforcing the mandate but if they just didn’t enforce the mandate, it is not clear to me that there would be any real repercussions for that,” said Elia.
As far as, what parents can do if the vaccine is mandated, it depends on the type of mandate it is and if there is an exception in it. If there is an exception in place, like there is for other vaccines, then parents can avail themselves of that exemption.
If there is no exemption, then parents could, for example, pull their kids out of public school and put them in a private school that doesn’t have the mandate in place. They could also, sue and challenge the mandate and homeschool their kids while the lawsuit is pending.
Elia does not believe that the vaccine will become a mandated law as there is no political will for a vaccine mandate.
“In areas where there is a political will towards a vaccine mandate, I expect the mandate to be pursued through back door efforts, like convincing businesses to require it of their employees,” said Elia.
At Phoenix Elementary school district, Jeffries says the main aspect of the COVID-19 vaccination conversation is children’s access to receive it.
“What’s most important is that the vaccine is going to be made available for children and that is one more strategy that parents will have in their tool kit to protect their children and keep them healthy,” Jeffries said.
Editor’s Note: Kylie Werner is a student reporter at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
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