NYC teachers file emergency SCOTUS petition to block vax mandate

NYC teachers file emergency SCOTUS petition to block vax mandate
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

We’ve been covering the situation in New York City for the past few weeks, where a number of unvaccinated teachers from the public school system have been fighting against the city’s vaccination mandate. That mandate goes into effect at midnight tonight, so the teachers are quickly running out of options. In a last-ditch effort to stave off their impending lack of employment, they have submitted an emergency request to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to block the Mayor’s vaccine mandate. The request was specifically addressed to Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayor. The teachers claim that the order is unconstitutional because of the varying options that have been offered to some workers but not others. (Daily Mail)

New York City public school teachers have asked the Supreme Court for an emergency order to block Mayor Bill de Blasio’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate from going into effect Friday.

The group of four teachers sent a petition to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor arguing that the mandate not only places an ‘unconstitutional burden’ on the city’s 148,000 school workers, but also ‘threatens the education of thousands of children.’

The petition argues that their rights are being violated because they do not have the option to undergo regular COVID-19 testing instead of getting the shot. Other essential workers – including NYPD cops – have been given that testing option instead.

If the mandate stands, as of midnight tonight, all teachers without at least one COVID shot will face probable termination on Monday. Given that there are 75,000 teachers in the NYC public school system and roughly 10% of them are unvaccinated, that could mean 7,500 classrooms would not have an instructor next week. Additionally, nearly 20% of the school system’s non-teaching support staff are also unvaccinated. That would be another roughly 15,000 jobs going vacant on Monday.

The teachers might actually have a leg to stand on here, depending on which justices hear the appeal. Their basic complaint deals with the fact that the city has issued a patchwork of different vaccination mandates for different workers in the public sector. Other workers, including some (but not all) of the police, are now being given the option to submit weekly negative COVID tests instead of providing proof of vaccination. The teachers were not given that option. But some of the other groups also come in contact with children on a regular basis, so the mandate for the teachers is being seen as arbitrary and capricious.

Personally, I still find the idea of having any mandatory vaccinations to be dubious at best, but the courts seem to disagree so there may be no way around this. But if it’s going to be done, it should be applied equally to everyone. Allowing for the option of submitting weekly test results at least sounds like a fair compromise. It doesn’t mean that the chance of someone showing up at school with the virus goes to zero, but neither do the vaccines, really. We’ve seen more than enough reports of vaccinated people coming down with the Delta variant already, though they generally tend to have less serious symptoms.

I’m not even going to hazard a guess as to how Sotomayor will view this request or if the rest of the court will eventually have to weigh in. Also, most of these vaccine mandates around the country are currently being issued via executive mandate using declared state-of-emergency powers rather than being put into law by a legislative body. The state of emergency can’t last forever. What happens to the mandates then? Wouldn’t they all have to be struck down? These are just a few of the questions we’ll need to courts to sort out sooner or later.

I’ll close with something nice I saw on Twitter this morning (how often do you get to say that?) on a related note. I’d like to see a lot more of this.

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Duane Patterson 2:01 PM on June 05, 2023