City Faces Another Temporary Restraining Order Mandated Vaccination For School Employees

A federal appeals court issued another temporary stop in the city vaccination mandate for Department of Education employees on Friday, three days before the deadline for all DOE employees to show proof of vaccination or quit your jobs.

The temporary injunction is the latest volley in the legal disputes on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement last month that he directed DOE employees to abide by the city’s most stringent COVID-19 vaccination policy, in his efforts to maintain the city’s 1,800 public schools open for in-person learning.

The court order, issued by the Court of Appeals to Second Circuit Judge Joseph Bianco on Friday night, will only remain in effect until a three-judge panel decides an appeal of an earlier ruling.

That ruling, issued Wednesday by New York State Supreme Court Justice Laurence Love, lifted a previous temporary restraining order about the mandate. Love said he hopes to pronounce on the broader validity of the vaccine’s mandate for educators early next week.

In a memo sent to DOE staff Saturday morning, Chancellor Meisha Porter said she hopes the final decision will be in her favor.

“We are confident that our vaccine mandate will continue to be fulfilled; our students and school communities deserve no less, ”said Porter. “While this means that the current weekly immunization or testing mandate remains in effect during the week of September 27 for all staff, principals and their school communities must continue to prepare for the possibility that the immunization mandate will take effect longer. later in the week. “

“Staff who have not yet received a vaccine should continue to work towards compliance in anticipation of the mandate being reinstated as soon as the end of the week,” he added.

The court order comes after a group of DOE employees filed a lawsuit earlier this month to block the vaccination mandate, according to the staten island advance.

On Friday, New York City teachers and principals unions held a press conference to push back the deadline, saying the mandate could lead to a possible personnel crisis next week with thousands of unvaccinated teachers and staff leaving.

The city said more than 82% of all DOE employees had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Saturday, including 88% of teachers and 95% of principals. But the principal of Local 237 representing various non-teaching school positions, including school safety officers and food service managers, roughly estimated half of their union membership has not been vaccinated, raising questions about a shortage of staff in critical positions next week.

De Blasio has said there will only be rare exceptions for medical and religious reasons, and the DOE said Friday that about 530 DOE employees have been granted waivers as applications continue to be reviewed.

While De Blasio said earlier this week that religious exemptions would be limited to “two well-established religions, Christian Science and Jehovah’s Witnesses” that historically opposed vaccines, Jehovah’s Witnesses issued a statement Saturday saying that the mayor “misstated the clear position.” of their faith in vaccines.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses are not opposed to vaccination. We view vaccination as a personal decision for each Christian to make. So far, 4,902 (99%) of the 4,926 in the offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York State are fully vaccinated, ”the statement said. “Jehovah’s Witnesses who choose to be vaccinated consider their decision to be consistent with their ‘love of neighbor’ and their belief in the sanctity of life, two fundamental Christian principles.”

Meanwhile, the new DOE revised testing and quarantine protocols for the city’s public schools will still go into effect Monday, with more frequent testing of unvaccinated students and updated quarantine policies for students exposed to COVID cases in classrooms.

With reports from Jessica Gould

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