Supreme Court denies request to block vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Northeast

NEW YORK (WPIX) — Teachers across New York City face suspensions without pay Monday after a deadline was reached for teachers to get at least their first vaccine shot.

While 90% of Department of Education employees have gotten vaccinated, there are still several thousand teachers and some principals who elected not to get a COVID-19 shot, according to the latest DOE data. Many of those holding out had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would issue an emergency injunction, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Friday evening denied the request from teachers.

“We are disappointed, but the fight for our clients’ due process rights and those similarly situated will go on,” Vinoo Varghese, who represents the teachers fighting the mandate, said. “This is about the kids, who the mayor and (New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi) don’t care about. So the children will suffer and so will fantastic public employees. Our hope is that the next mayor will restore normalcy and decency to New York City.

Education officials reassured parents on Friday that students would still be taught by teachers.

“There are support systems in place to ensure schools have the staff they need to take care of their students, including 9,000 vaccinated substitute teachers, 5,000 vaccinated substitute paraprofessionals, qualified Central staff who can be redeployed and a new flexible funding allocation for schools to hire additional employees,” a DOE spokesperson said. “We are also offering a financial incentive to all substitute teachers and substitute paraprofessionals on top of their regular pay.”

Unvaccinated DOE workers who get the first shot over the weekend and provide proof can report to work on Monday and be moved back off the Leave Without Pay list.

“Vaccination mandates work and ours will help keep our schools safe and healthy,” a DOE spokesperson said.

Teacher Rachel Maniscalco is one of four plaintiffs in the case before the Supreme Court.

“I do not believe we need an injection we don’t want or trust in order to keep our livelihood,” she said.

Some unvaccinated DOE employees are holding out hope for an emergency restraining order to stop the vaccine mandate. A Hail Mary was filed in the Southern District of New York in Federal Court. The filing represents 10 plaintiffs asking for a broader relief to apply to anyone seeking a religious or medical exemption.

“At the very least, for any vaccine mandate to be constitutional, it has to have an adequate religious exemption and adequate medical exemption,” attorney Sujata Gibson said.

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