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San Diego Unified teachers given termination notices for failing to comply with COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Monday marks the date set by SDUSD as the day it would enforce consequences for staff who fail to get fully vaccinated or get an approved exemption.

SAN DIEGO — San Diego Unified School District has sent termination notices for dozens of workers because of failing to comply with the district's COVID-19 vaccination mandate. Monday marks the date set by SDUSD as the day it would enforce consequences for staff who fail to get fully vaccinated or get an approved exemption.

Many teachers who spoke to CBS 8 on Sunday said they were nervous to go on camera to talk about the sensitive topic. Some said they were confused and upset but worry about retaliation if they speak up.

"Our leadership, unfortunately, is making some pretty horrendous comments stating our department and district would be better off if the unvaccinated would just quit," said Dr. Amanda Morris.

Morris is a licensed mental health clinician for the San Diego Unified School District. She has worked there for 15 years and said what she’s seeing happen is unfair and wrong.

"I was getting phone calls last week, with some of my colleagues and peers that they had just received a termination letter," said Morris.

With the district already short-staffed, she said it’s a shame to let go of clinicians and staff who have made real connections with students.

"By losing more clinicians in the middle of a mental health crisis, is just mind-blowing. And have students go without having IEP services," said Morris.

Morris is talking about “individualized education plans” which are for disabled or autistic students.

She said she’s seen some of her experienced and qualified clinicians getting a termination letter.

"It did come as a shock because really this is segregation and discrimination as a district that advocates for being a leader in equity and social justice. I think it was a shock to everyone," said Morris.

For Morris, she was able to bypass getting a termination letter because of her partial religious exemption but she said that was not the case for some of her peers.

"Some colleagues have went on shared theirs have been accepted while others have not," she said. 

CBS 8 spoke with attorney Dan Eaton who outlined the potential recourse for affected employees should the district take action on terminations.

"They should contact their union rep and frankly one of the things [they should do is] contact the person who sent the letter [ask] are there any internal appeals. Those are going to be exhausted before they return to the courts," said Eaton.

Ninety-nine percent of SDUSD employees are either fully vaccinated or have received an exemption to the mandate. The board decided in late September to require full vaccinations for students and staff. Employees who don’t comply would be terminated and students who don’t comply would have to learn from home.

CBS 8 spoke with Let Them Breathe and they said they'd have resources available for those who want to know more about their rights.

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