NYC Mayor extends teacher vaccine mandate to religious, private schools

AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

At the federal level, President Joe Biden appears to be getting cold feet in terms of enforcing his vaccine mandate for federal workers. But in the Big Apple, outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio is doubling down and moving full speed ahead. There was already a hotly contested mandate for teachers and staff in the city’s public schools to be vaccinated, but now Hizzoner is pushing it even further, saying that all employees at private and parochial schools must similarly roll up their sleeves or be put out of work. It’s being described as “the largest effort in the nation to force religious schools to adhere to a vaccine mandate.” The blowback against this order began before the ink was even dry on the executive mandate. (NY Post)

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday extended his public school employee vaccination mandate to private and parochial schools.

Under Thursday’s announcement, employees at all private and religious education schools — including yeshivas and Catholic schools — must provide proof of a first vaccination dose by Dec. 20.

Some 56,000 workers at 938 non-public schools will be forced to comply with the new mandate, according to a statement from de Blasio and Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi.

One teacher at a Borough Park yeshiva told the Post that the Jewish community surrounding his school already felt under attack and this mandate was only going to make matters worse. Some of the yeshivas have more than three-quarters of the teachers still unvaccinated and there are some where not a single worker has gotten the vaccine.

The same teacher brought up an even more pressing question. If the private school boards and principals refuse to give the order, how does the Mayor plan to enforce this? Will they be sending NYPD officers into yeshivas and Catholic schools and dragging teachers and janitors out into the streets?

I have a different question and it deals with the fact that the New York City mandates offer the possibility of both medical and religious exemptions. Why would you offer religious exemptions to a mandate and then try to make it mandatory at a religious institution? You’re either recognizing the religious freedom rights of these communities or you aren’t. You can’t have it both ways.

If anyone is hoping for relief from these oppressive mandates when the new mayor is sworn in next month, that’s probably a lost cause. While Eric Adams has expressed some fairly conservative views on questions of crime and law enforcement, he campaigned on a platform that not only supported the idea of vaccine mandates in the schools, but sought to expand it. If he has his way, Adams wants to make vaccinations mandatory for all students, not just the teachers and other staff members.

The Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Brooklyn, Thomas Chadzutko, immediately sent a letter to de Blasio asking him to “reconsider” the order. He said that most of his teachers are already vaccinated and he encourages everyone to get the shots, but he believes there should be “an element of choice” in the matter. He probably shouldn’t get his hopes up too high. We’ve been dealing with de Blasio for many years now and being reasonable isn’t exactly a trait that he’s known for. Plenty of elected officials have gotten carried away with the special emergency powers they inherited as a result of the pandemic, but few have embraced them as firmly and broadly as Bill de Blasio. The man basically turned into a dictator last year and he’s unlikely to change in the few weeks he has left at City Hall.