Virus Outbreak Los Angeles Schools

FILE - In this May 27, 2021, file photo, sisters Guadalupe Flores, 15, right, and Estela Flores, 13, left, from East Los Angeles, get vaccinated with the Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine by licensed vocational nurse Rita Orozco, far left, at the Esteban E. Torres High School in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles board of education is expected to vote Thursday, Sept. 9, on whether to require all students 12 and older to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to participate in on-campus instruction in the nation's second-largest school district. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

(The Center Square) – California’s largest school district is the first in the nation to require all eligible students to be vaccinated for COVID-19. 

The Los Angeles Unified School District will require students age 12 and older to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 10, 2022, to continue in-person instruction. Students who don't will have to attend classes remotely.

The district’s school board voted nearly unanimously Thursday afternoon to mandate the vaccine for its eligible 600,000 students. The district will allow medical and other exemptions. 

“The science is clear – vaccinations are an essential part of protection against COVID-19,” Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly said. “The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and requiring eligible students to be vaccinated is the strongest way to protect our school community.” 

The district’s staff, teachers included, must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15. The deadline for all eligible students to get their first shot is Nov. 21.

“Today’s decision furthers our longstanding commitment to ensure the safety of our students, families, and staff,” Board President Kelly Gonez said. “The vaccine is the single best way to protect students and schools from COVID-19. Los Angeles Unified is committed to meeting our families where they are and providing them with reliable medical information about this safe, effective vaccine.”

Scott Davison, an attorney who has challenged Gov. Gavin Newsom school mask mandates and other COVID-related orders in court, told the Los Angeles Times that lawsuits would be filed against the student vaccine mandate.

“I expect that there will be numerous legal challenges to the vaccine mandate for children in LAUSD and other districts,” Davison said.

“We know vaccines are effective at preventing severe disease,” he added. “The question for the [COVID] vaccines will be whether they are needed in a population like children who are already at incredibly low risk.”

The school district’s website listed 1,357 known COVID-19 infections between students and teachers as of Wednesday.

“Vaccinating eligible students is the logical next step in the fight to keep our children and entire communities protected from COVID-19,” board member Jackie Goldberg said. “Requiring kids to receive a safe and effective vaccine isn’t new – schools have had mandatory vaccination policy for decades. Los Angeles Unified will always take every step possible to provide children, their families, and communities with accurate health information and access to testing and vaccines.”

Proof of vaccination will be verified through the district’s “Daily Pass.”

The district board’s meeting saw around two dozen protesters outside of the district office in Los Angeles.

Regional Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.