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CPS school board kicks mandatory vaccination vote back to drawing board

Posted at 5:08 PM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 07:05:39-04

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Public Schools decided Monday to cancel a vote on whether the district will require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, saying the policy needs further review.

As it was drafted Monday evening, the resolution would have required all teachers and any employee or partner working in a district building to receive at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine by Aug. 17.

At least two committee members who drafted the policy said they think this mandate helps protect the district from future outbreaks and will help keep schools open to in-person learning five days a week.

Parents seemed to be on both sides of the fence about whether CPS should require employees to be vaccinated. In a recent survey sent out by the board of education, 40% of parents said they wanted the vaccine mandate. Another 16% were undecided.

Parent Marlie George-Nappere said no one should be forced to do anything, especially for a vaccine that has been introduced so recently.

"Even if they get the vaccine, it's still children out here who didn't, and their immune systems are stronger, so it really doesn't matter if all the staff get it,” she said. "It's still kids that still haven't been vaccinated."

Cincinnati’s Federation of Teachers isn’t behind the mandate either. President Julie Sellers said now is not the time for this and that it could cause chaos and hard feelings. She also said 85% of the union is already vaccinated and, with incentives, that could bump up to 90%.

And because the vaccines don’t have full FDA approval — they're only authorized for emergency use so far — she only sees trouble moving forward.

“It would be very difficult," Sellers said. "I'm not sure that the district has the capacity to give the teachers who need ADA accommodations. There are teachers who are very hesitant and worried about this because of historical family experiences, and they're afraid."

The policy would allow for exceptions for religious or medical reasons: The religious exemption must “stem from a deeply or sincerely held religious belief or practice” and “political beliefs are not a sufficient enough reason to request an accommodation.”

Employees who want an exemption for medical reasons would need to request those under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Ohio Civil Rights Act.

As for whether this might lead to CPS requiring students to get vaccinated, legal expert and Northern Kentucky University President Ken Katkin said that’s unlikely.

"I don't think that the Ohio school boards have that authority right now,” he said.