CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Public Schools Board is considering a mandate requiring all teachers and faculty to get the COVID-19 vaccination before being able to enter school buildings. If adopted, the district would be the first one in the country to implement such a rule.
As of Monday night’s board meeting, the policy is still in the infant stage. Board members said they want more feedback from teachers unions, parents and health partners.
“Committee member Lindy questioned whether or not there would be potential healthcare privacy issues,” CPS board member Mike Moroski said. “The answer is no. But if the policy would be controversial, and I think the answer to that is yes. Some question at the federal level whether this is possible because of the emergency status of the vaccination. If you can mandate something in emergency status, you can.”
The policy is written so that those with religious beliefs or disabilities would be exempt, but unions could still challenge it.
“I think, for my part, I’m open to this,” CPS board member Ben Lindy said. “But if we do it, I’d like to do it with a broader group so we have people who are teachers, parents, part of community organizations, saying, ‘We’ve looked at this; we think it’s the right time to do it for kids. Let’s do it together.’”
The biggest question before the board on Monday was the legality of the potential mandate.
“I’d love to see everybody be voluntarily be vaccinated,” said CPS Board of Education president Carolyn Jones. “But I have concerns and questions about legal implications if people adamantly refuse to take it. What are the legal concerns about that? Can we force it based on federal guidelines?”
Part of the proposed policy's legality questions has to do with the fact that there is no precedent for anything like it currently.
“Whether it’s legal or not is to show you lots of other examples of school districts or employees who have done this,” CPS general counsel Daniel Hoying said. “There’s just not that many. It’s not to say we can’t be among the first. It’s not to say that we’re not fully defending the policy, but there are potential legal risks. Of course there are any time you’re first.”
The board committee will continue to revise the policy, and they said they’re hoping to present it at the June 28 meeting.