SMMUSD Board Delays Action on Vaccines

Panel reportedly waiting for full FDA approval of vaccine before tackling the divisive issue

By Jack Simon, Observer Staff Writer

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is apparently waffling about a proposal to mandate vaccines for all eligible students.

The SMMUSD Board of Education met last Thursday to discuss a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for all students, ages 12 and older, but decided to postpone action on the divisive plan for at least another month, district officials said this week.

The mandate discussion could be added to the agenda for the Nov. 18 Board meeting if the vaccine gets full FDA authorization for children, officials said.

The School Board had considered the vaccine mandate if light of the recent student quarantine at John Muir Elementary School and the October 1 announcement by Governor Gavin Newsom, issuing a vaccination requirement for students to remain in the classroom during this pandemic.

The governor's also plan allows those with "qualified and approved exemptions" to opt out, though the conditions weren't specified.

In a letter to parents last week, SMMUSD Supt. Ben Drati also said "We are reviewing the mandate with our guiding health agencies and the California Department of Education and will keep the public informed as we learn more about it... I support and appreciate the Governor's mandate."

During their meeting, most Board members expressed concerns with the vague personal exemption provision and vaccination timeline of the governor's directive.

Board member Jennifer Smith, a vaccine advocate, related that years ago California removed personal exemptions from vaccinations following outbreaks of the measles and whooping cough. "I think that those actions proved beneficial for kids," she said.

Drati reminded Board members that Newsom issued a press release, not an executive order. "As such the press release does not constitute a change in the law," he added.

Following a spirited discussion, the board agreed to delay action on a vaccine mandate until the governor issues a Formal Executive Order or legislative action from the state.

In his announcement, Newsom stated that vaccine requirements will take effect either January 1 or July 1, 2022, following full FDA approval for children. "Based on current information the vaccine requirement is expected to apply to grades 7th-12th beginning July 1, 2022," the governor's statement said.

Last month, the School Board of Los Angeles Unified followed in the footsteps of Culver City Unified and voted to require all eligible students 12 years of age and older to receive their first Covid-19 vaccine doses by no later than November 21, and to be fully vaccinated by December 19.


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