The Los Angeles Unified School District, already facing at least two lawsuits over its coronavirus-related student vaccination mandate, is now being sued over a similar requirement for employees to receive their COVID-19 injections.
Health Freedom Defense Fund, a Wyoming-based organization that advocates mandatory masking, testing and vaccinations, and six LAUSD employees filed a lawsuit against the district last week, challenging LA Unified’s vaccination mandate.
California Educators for Medical Freedom, founded by LAUSD employees who opposed a vaccine mandate, was inadvertently omitted as the plaintiff, but the complaint will be amended to include the group, said Leslie Manookian, founder and president of Health Freedom Defense Fund, Monday. , Nov 8
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, names as defendants Megan Reilly, the district’s interim superintendent; Ileana Davalos, Chief Human Resources Officer; and all seven school board members.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs disputed the need for the COVID-19 vaccines, alleging in the complaint that they do not prevent infections or transmission of the coronavirus and that their effectiveness diminishes after several months. The complaint also alleges that the vaccination mandate violates an individual’s right to “personal autonomy, self-determination, physical integrity and the right to refuse medical treatment” as provided for in the Fourteenth Amendment.
“We don’t believe anyone in government or anyone in business has the right to interfere in those decisions,” Manookian said in an interview.
“That’s what LAUSD is doing with these teachers and staff in this school district,” she added. “They force them to make a choice between caring for their family and a medical procedure they don’t want.”
Manookian accused the country’s second-largest school district of forcing its employees to get vaccinated.
Workers who failed to meet the mid-October deadline to provide proof that they had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine were not allowed to report to work in person. Some were given shelter, including reassignment to a remote position, but not everyone who asked for an exemption got one. Even if a waiver was granted, not everyone was given a job, as evidenced by the indictment for most of the six employees named as plaintiffs in this lawsuit.
The LAUSD employees who are plaintiffs in this case include Miguel Sotelo, an electrician who is currently on leave due to a work accident; Mariel Howsepian, a teacher; Jeffrey Fuentes, an electrician; Sandra Garcia, a special education assistant; Hovhannes Saponghian, a teaching assistant; and Norma Brambila, a health assistant.
These employees are now at risk of being fired, the complaint says.
As part of its vaccination mandate, LAUSD agreed to pay unvaccinated workers affected by the mandate through October 31. It could have started laying off workers from Nov. 1, although it’s also possible that some workers are using their “advantage time” or have been placed on leave.
When asked about the number of employees laid off, if any, a district spokesperson Monday suggested that a reporter file a public record request.
She also said the district, which is not pleased with the latest lawsuit, is not commenting on existing lawsuits.
District officials have maintained that the vaccines are safe for students and staff, and that the benefits outweigh the risks of potential side effects.
In September, after the school board passed a mandate to vaccinate students, the interim superintendent said the district has a duty to keep schools safe.
“Our mission remains clear: to provide students with the best education possible, including the many benefits of personalized education,” Reilly said at the time. “The science is clear: Vaccinations are an essential part of multi-layered protection against COVID-19.”
The district requires students ages 12 and older to receive their first vaccine dose by Nov. 21 and the second by Dec. 19, before the spring semester begins in January.
LAUSD has been hit by at least two lawsuits over its student mandate.
Lawyers for one of the lawsuits filed by the California chapter of Children’s Health Defense and the Protection of the Educational Rights of Kids filed a motion this week seeking a preliminary injunction to end LAUSD’s student mandate.