- New York City public school teachers and employees were required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday or be placed on unpaid leave, per the city’s vaccine mandate.
- Of approximately 150,000 employees, about 8,000 refused the shot and were placed on unpaid leave, the New York Times reported.
- Some teachers have tried to fight the mandate through religious exemptions, legal challenges, and protests.
Frantz Conde, 47, was placed on unpaid leave from his Brooklyn middle school, where he has taught for 18 years. He is numbered among the less than 6% of employees in the public school system — about 8,000 out of approximately 150,000 — who refused to take the vaccine and were placed on unpaid leave, the New York Times reported.
Conde told Insider that New York City’s vaccination mandate, which went into effect Monday and requires teachers and other Department of Education employees requiring to get the COVID-19 shot, feels forced.
“The issue is not the vaccine. The issue is being forced, coerced, bullied, cajoled into taking a vaccine against your will,” said Conde, who said his religious exemption to the vaccine was denied.
Teachers and employees who refuse the shot are prohibited from teaching or entering schools, and they are placed on a year-long unpaid leave.
Of all full-time Department of Education, 95% of employees were vaccinated, including 96% of teachers and 99% of all principals, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference on Monday. He added that over 43,000 vaccines had been given to public school employees since the rule was announced in August.
Conde said in addition to financial and emotional pressures the mandate has put on teachers, “one of the most negative repercussions” has been separating teachers from students who rely on them, which he said is akin to ripping apart a family.
“And the irony is it’s supposed to be in service of the kids and their safety,” Conde said.
Stephanie Edmonds, a 31-year-old teacher, told Insider she was unable to enter her Bronx high school on Monday. She said she filed a religious exemption to the vaccine, which was denied, and now she is seeking an appeal.
“I’m still, fortunately, unlike other teachers, receiving pay, but I’m not allowed to teach. So, I’m not allowed in my building. I don’t know really what I’m supposed to be doing,” Edmonds said, adding that if her exemption is approved, she will be given an off-site administrative job while she remains unvaccinated.
Some teachers attempted to fight the mandate in the courts, but none have been successful so far. A temporary injunction that was initially granted was later denied by two federal courts, and an emergency injunction was denied by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor last week. A US Court of Appeals will hear the teachers’ appeal on October 14, the Times reported.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said 97% of the city’s teachers who are union members were vaccinated by Monday.
“I’m happy about 97%, but I wish it was 100%,” Mulgrew said on Monday. “For me as a union leader, that’s a sad thing, but I have to focus first more on the people who are vaccinated right now to keep them safe.”
Mulgrew said “under 4,000 people” who are union members remain unvaccinated, but they can return to work “at any time” if they choose to get vaccinated.
Conde said he might get the vaccine if God told him to. Edmonds said she doesn’t think she will ever get the coronavirus vaccine, and she also won’t allow her 5-year-old son to get it.
“I’m going to fight this fight all the way to the end because I think it’s very important because after us, it’s all the other workers, and then what I’m really scared for is the kids,” Edmonds said. “If they go through with this mandate, okay, what are they going to mandate you to do next?”