SAN DIEGO —
In protest against the statewide vaccine mandate, some parents, students, teachers, and school staff throughout California planned a statewide school walkout for Monday, October, 18th. Organizers of the movement say they are standing for freedom of choice against mandates.
Monday morning a crowd gathered at Balboa Park.
"It’s really important to teach kids there are some things worth fighting for," said Jacyln Holmes of Santee. Her two daughters go to Literacy First Charter School in El Cajon. She took them out of school for the day to attend the rally.
"America is not one size fits all, it never has been. When you say 'This is what you need to go to school' this doesn’t feel right," she said.
In response to the walkout, the San Diego County Office of Education said keeping children home from school to protest state policies impacts their learning time and student academic success.
“There are flyers all over the state. There is not one specific group that is organizing this,” said Sharon McKeenman the founder of Let Them Breathe, a group of parents concerned about the effects of masks and vaccines for children.
Flyers posted on social media invited people to the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park to participate in a field trip to explore educational resources and museums. McKeeman said the morning will be for parents to connect about alternative schooling options like micro-schools or homeschooling.
“If they're calling their kids out from school for the day they want it to be a positive educational thing,” said McKeeman.
Organizers asked parents to call their student’s schools and state they are keeping them home not because they are sick, but because they are not OK with the vaccine mandate.
Many school districts sent out responses in opposition to the planned walkout. The Grossmont Union High School District disagreed with the movement stating:
“We respect all of our community members’ strongly-held beliefs about the state’s mandates. At the same time, we never want students to fall behind. It’s important for them to be in class during the school day.”
The San Marcos Unified School District said in response:
“We understand that families and students may have strong emotions and questions about COVID-19 safety measures, including vaccine and testing requirements. However, keeping children home from school to protest a COVID-19 vaccine requirement announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom, as posts on some social media outlets are suggesting, would only result in lost learning time for our students. Our school funding will not be impacted by absences. But our children will be. Showing up for school has a huge impact on a student's academic success starting in kindergarten and continuing through high school.”
Similar protests were held outside schools across California, with the walkouts organized in protest of Gov. Gavin Newsom's announced coronavirus vaccine mandate for students. The requirement will take effect once a vaccine receives "full approval" from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for all impacted age groups.
Thousands also took to the steps of the California Capitol on Monday to protest vaccine mandates in schools:
Pfizer's vaccine has full FDA approval for those 16 years and up, and is offered to those as young as age 12 under an emergency use authorization.
"While there continues to be encouraging signs and we're continuing to see progress with more and more people who maybe were on the fence that are now getting the vaccine ... there's still a struggle to get to where we need to go, and that means we need to do more and we need to do better," Newsom said when he announced the mandate.
He said the proposed mandate is "about protecting our children and school staff and keeping them in the classroom." He said depending on when full authorizations for the vaccines are granted by the FDA, the mandate would take effect on Jan. 1, or July 1, 2022.
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