Public schools should stop threatening unvaccinated children

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school system in the country, with more than 600,000 students. It is also the largest district to implement an immunization mandate, not only for employees, but also for students.

District officials had set Jan. 10 as the deadline for all people 12 and older to be vaccinated, but some 34,000 eligible young people refused to be shot. As of Friday, the district’s plan was to exile all of those students to the land of virtual learning, according to The Washington Post. Unvaccinated LA students should, however, be given a reprieve: the school board is expected to vote Tuesday to postpone the application of the mandate until the fall semester.

But the simple fact that punishing thousands of teenagers for not getting vaccinated was even on the table is disconcerting. Indeed, throughout the pandemic, those responsible for enforcing COVID-19 restrictions have had little qualms about making children miserable, even though the under-18 crowd has little to fear from the disease. Young people are the cohort most immune to COVID-19, whether or not they are vaccinated; elderly vaccinated people are at significantly higher risk than unvaccinated adolescents. Despite this reality, children and adolescents in the United States face the most stringent and brutally uncompromising pandemic prevention policies, especially in public schools.

Many public schools in New York City, for example, will now retaliate against unvaccinated teens by banning them from playing sports and participating in extracurricular activities if they are not vaccinated. A public service announcement recently warned teens to get vaccinated, if not to miss out on their social life:

It’s one thing to encourage teens to get vaccinated; it’s quite another to threaten them with further setbacks in their social life and school career if they don’t comply. Healthy young people have very little to fear from COVID-19, but two years of social isolation, school closures and virtual learning are undoubtedly having a profoundly negative effect. Elementary and middle school test scores, especially among minority students, are plummeting; and according to the surgeon general, more young people are experiencing episodes of depression than ever before.

Public schools should not humiliate and punish unvaccinated students, nor should they continue to rely on virtual learning. None of these policies are in the best interests of children and youth. They need their life to get back to normal.

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