More than two dozen educators and parents gathered in front of the William S. Hart Union High School District administrative office on Tuesday to voice their concerns over a recent statewide mandate requiring all teachers and school site staff in California to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing by Oct. 15.
Citing their desire to have personal choice in their medical decisions, as well as fearing the slippery slope of what those present called a government overreach, the demonstrators on Tuesday held signs that bore statements such as “Recommend not mandate” and “Medical Freedom. No Mandates,” among others.
“We’re not anti-mask, we’re not anti-vaccine and we’re not anti-any of that,” said Jess Guidroz, a La Mesa Junior High School English and social-emotional learning teacher. “We’re just pro-choice: like the choice to wear a mask or the choice not to get vaccinated.”
Guidroz said he believes that when there is “risk” involved with a decision regarding their personal health, he and his colleagues should be given the option to make the choice for themselves and their families. His fellow demonstrators echoed this sentiment, contending that the vaccine injections are ineffective or dangerous — and that children have a high survival rate after being diagnosed.
“The vaccine is proven, it’s shown, that’s it’s not effective,” said Guidroz, adding that he has had COVID-19 in the past. “It’s not going to protect your child — people with the vaccine are still getting sick…But again, it’s your choice, it’s the freedom aspect for me to get vaccinated and risk my life.”
While only a few hundred minors have died as a result of COVID-19 nationwide, the L.A. County Department of Public Health released a report saying that case rates among 5- to 11-year-olds continue to rise, and that “unvaccinated teens had 8 times the risk of infection than those teens vaccinated.” The infection and hospitalization rates in late July were five and 29 times higher among unvaccinated people in L.A. County, and last Friday the Centers for Disease Control also released a report saying unvaccinated adolescents were hospitalized with COVID-19 at 10 times the rate of fully vaccinated adolescents.
La Mesa Junior High School teacher Jeff Stephan said at the protest that he was vaccinated and that he did not mind masks in the classroom. But he said that he feared governments enforcing mask/vaccine mandates and what it could mean for his children, who are also young students in the Santa Clarita Valley.
“The mask thing, for me, is OK … we have to give and take in the community, we have to be able to understand each other’s sides,” said Stephan. “But when you take a drastic view, and it’s no longer my body my choice, to me there’s (a large) amount of red flags.”
Golden Valley teacher Melissa Brewer disclosed that she was unvaccinated and that while she would take the required weekly tests come Oct. 15, she worries about any future mandates that would make her choose between getting a vaccine or keeping her job.
“I just feel like we keep on saying, ‘It’s got to end here, it’s got to end here,’” said Brewer. “And it’s continuing and things keep happening, so I’m more worried about what’s next if we don’t start standing up for our freedoms now.”
Guidroz said the demonstration in front of the district office was to show administrators that dozens of their staff are afraid it could come to them losing their jobs after Oct. 15.
“It’s just that I hope they think twice before going along with the mandates and implementing the mandates on Oct. 15,” said Guidroz. “That they see there are dozens of teachers and staff that they will lose if they implement.”
Hart Governing Board President Cherise Moore did not respond to requests for comment for this story, and district administrators declined to comment. The Hart districts has repeatedly expressed its position that the district is required to enforce the mandates issued by state and county health officials.