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Vaccine Mandate for NYC School Employees Can Move Forward, Judges Rule

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Porter welcome students back for the first day of school at P.S. 25 in The Bronx. Monday, September 13, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Porter welcome students back for the first day of school at P.S. 25 in The Bronx. Monday, September 13, 2021
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters here: ckbe.at/newsletters


A federal appeals court has removed a temporary block on New York City’s vaccine mandate for education department employees, paving the way for officials to require all school staff to receive a vaccine dose or else be put on unpaid leave.

The ruling, issued by a panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, reverses the court’s decision on Friday to block the vaccine mandate while the appeal is argued.

A hearing in the case was initially scheduled for Wednesday, with the vaccine mandate on hold in the interim. But Monday’s unexpected decision appears to allow the city to enforce its vaccine mandate immediately. Spokespeople for Mayor Bill de Blasio and the education department did not respond to a request for comment or answer questions about when the mandate might go into effect.

The vaccine mandate was initially scheduled to go into effect at midnight on Monday, with educators who failed to provide proof of at least one vaccine dose put on unpaid leave and barred from entering their school buildings. With the hold on the mandate lifted, it’s unclear when city officials will reinstate it.

The ruling comes on the heels of a similar ruling by a state court judge that lifted a separate temporary hold on the vaccine mandate, saying that the case would likely not be successful on the merits.

Roughly 148,000 education department employees will be subject to the mandate when it goes into effect, including about 78,000 teachers and thousands of school safety agents who work in schools and are employed by the police department.

As of Monday morning, de Blasio said 87% of all education department employees have had at least one dose, including 90% of teachers and 97% of principals. That leaves about 19,000 education department staff, and 7,800 teachers, who have yet to demonstrate proof of a first dose and could be barred from schools when the mandate goes into effect.

Officials have been girding for staff shortages as a result of the mandate, since a small but significant percentage of teachers, school safety agents, and other staff remain unvaccinated. Union officials have argued the city does not have adequate plans to handle thousands of vacancies, though city officials say they have substitutes at the ready.

De Blasio said Monday that he expects the prospect of lost paychecks to prompt an increase in vaccination rates among education department staff, which have been incrementally rising.

“They have to make a really big decision,” de Blasio said. “[Do] they really want to give up on their kids, and the school community? Do they want to give up a paycheck? I think a lot of people, when they really think about it, are going to realize that getting vaccinated is the right thing to do.”

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