Nation’s Capital Won’t Educate Unvaccinated Kids

The order will have a disproportionate impact on African-American students
School Bus Stop Sign Closeup
Photo: Megan Lee/Unsplash

Washington D.C. has announced that all children within district limits will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend school — and the city has no plans of providing a virtual option for unvaccinated students this time.

According to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, “all students must be fully immunized before entering school.” The fact sheet added that “all students must have up-to-date immunization certification on file with the school within the first 20 school days or they will not be allowed to attend school or school activities until the immunization certification is secured by the school.”

In a Thursday press conference, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser admitted that the district has no contingency plan in place for the children the city is barring from classes. “They can go to school on Monday. But they need to get their vaccinations… and their families will be alerted as to the dates,” Bowser said.

“Our commitment at DC Public Schools is to foster a safe environment for our students to learn, grow and thrive,” Lewis Ferebee, chancellor of DC Public Schools, continued in a press release. “We appreciate the partnership of our families and staff in taking this important step as we all work together to start the school year strong.”

The Daily Signal reported that the order applies to children attending private schools as well.

By all indications, the order will have a disproportionate impact on African-American students. According to the city’s vaccination database, 74% of African-American children between the ages of 5 and 11 have not completed their primary vaccination series. That number is 47% for children aged 12 to 15, and 42% for children aged 16 and 17, as reported by the Daily Signal. White and Asian children are more likely to be vaccinated in all three age groups.

“Congress should expand their school choice policy to *all* D.C. students so they’ll never be subject to this sort of bureaucratic indifference (or maliciousness) again,” said Jason Bedrick, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

“[Bowser] actually cannot do that. It is a violation of the constitutional right to an elementary and secondary education. She needs to read Plyler v. Doe, and also be ready for the lawsuits,” added writer and attorney Christine Flowers.

Bowser’s new rules run afoul of the latest Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which dropped a recommendation for unvaccinated students to quarantine after COVID-19 exposure. But so far, the city is doubling down. In addition to the vaccination requirement, “all students and staff will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result before the start of the 2022-2023 school year.”

Garion Frankel
Garion Frankel is a graduate student at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service with a concentration in education policy and management. He is a Young Voices contributor, and Chalkboard Review’s breaking news reporter.

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