The William S. Hart Union High School District governing board voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of a resolution calling for Gov. Gavin Newsom “to reconsider or rescind the vaccine mandate for public and private K-12 students.”
The boardroom and lobby were filled with parents, activists and faculty members, many of whom passionately argued their positions during the public comment portion of the meeting. Due to increased concerns about the potential for heated debate, three L.A. County sheriff’s deputies were present for the meeting, flanking both sides of the boardroom.
Board member Linda Storli spoke first about the vaccine and mandates and admonished the audience about some members’ past disruptive behavior and conduct toward board members during board meetings. “I believe in the vaccine. I had three shots and I believe in the mask.”
Board member Joe Messina equated the debate to a debate over liberty, and quoted the verse on the Liberty Bell saying, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
Messina referenced the statements by Storli and said that he’s been verbally attacked, called names and received nastiness thrown at him.
“I’ve been putting up with it for 13 years,” Messina said. “There are plenty of people that need food, shelter and we should turn our energy toward helping them.”
Board President Cherise Moore thanked the audience for wearing masks and mentioned the school district was reported for not following mask-wearing protocols at previous meetings. She thanked the deputies for their presence and stated no one should feel threatened about attending the meetings.
“You pay taxes, this is your building and if you don’t feel safe, we’re going to try everything we can do,” Moore said.
Storli wanted public comments limited to one minute, and Messina requested two minutes. A compromise suggested by board member James Webb granted the 20 public comment speakers up to 90 seconds.
Resident Victor Rivera stated there’s a mistrust of government and cited “a wave of freedom coming across the country.” He said the opposition to the resolution was coming from “the artificial support from your friends,” referring to the board and school faculty present. “We’re not here saying you can’t wear a mask or get vaccinated … and like it or not, we’re taking our country back.”
Parent Robert Rivera opposed the mandates, saying, “I believe in parents’ choice.”
Zoey, a person who opposed the resolution but did not state her last name, told the board that “the voices that been speaking in this room represent a very small, loud and obnoxious minority” and stated vaccines in the past have proved effective.
Jessica Jackson urged the board to approve the resolution. “I’m asking you to please vote yes and give parents a choice” and referenced a friend’s daughter who faces illnesses such as irregular heartbeat and epilepsy, saying she wouldn’t be able to go to school if the mandate stayed in place.
Storli, in the discussion of the resolution, said, “I have listened to prominent doctors who absolutely believe that it does what they need it to do, which is to stop deaths” and added that she doesn’t believe the governor will listen and change the mandate but believes mask wearing does help prevent the spread.
Webb, in the board discussion, said, “I think the governor has overreached” and indicated he would vote in favor of the resolution.
“I think the vaccine can and has been effective,” board member Robert Jensen said. “However, I’m not sure at this point in time that one size fits all.”
Jensen felt the legislative branch of the state government should be the deciding voice and said, “Whatever the result is, I will not disobey the law.”
Moore said she has a 10-year-old child and didn’t want to rush into anything when Newsom announced the mandate in October, indicating students would have to be vaccinated once the FDA gave final approval to the vaccine for specific age groups. “I’m a parent and haven’t gotten my son vaccinated. I don’t have an appointment yet for his vaccination.”