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BUSD School Board Debates Vaccine Mandate at 9/22 Meeting

​​At its September 22 meeting, the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) School Board discussed topics such as a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for eligible students, Latinx and BLM resolutions, and Berkeley High School’s (BHS) sports teams’ need for accessibility to their gyms.

The BUSD board members voiced their ideas and concerns on the possible mandate of a COVID-19 vaccine for students.

“At the end of the day, our staff, city staff, and our community partners are working together,” said School Board President Ty Alper. “That’s what it’ll take to get vaccine rates where we want them to be and where they need to be.”

The board also discussed having an option for students to get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.

“We have an obligation to serve every student so mandating vaccination solely is not an option for us.” said Director Ka’Dijah Brown.

Some board members were concerned it would not be productive to make students get vaccinated without an alternative.

The data is clear; our only viable strategy to end the pandemic is vaccination.

Dr. Lyn Silver

“I’m all for vaccinations or tests weekly, and that’s as far as I’m willing to go,” Babbitt said. I would like to acknowledge our actual liability of making this mandate, given the actual authority we have.”

In the public comments section, several parents, teachers, health officials, and students spoke on the matter of mandating COVID-19 vaccines for BUSD students 12 years and older.

Dr. Lyn Silver, pediatrician, and director of Safely Opening Schools Project in California supported a vaccine mandate for students.

“The data is clear, our only viable strategy to end the pandemic is vaccination,” Silver said. “Our vaccines are safe and effective and the data shows they are much safer than getting COVID-19, even in adolescence.” 

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a statewide vaccine mandate for students 12 years old and up in public and private schools on Friday, October 1 unless they have a medical or religious exemption. The mandate will go into effect on either January 1 or July 1, depending on when the vaccine is approved for children by the FDA. California is the first state to pass a vaccine mandate for students in K-12 in-person school.

In the meeting, the board members also reviewed the progress on the Latinx Resolution which the Board passed in June of 2021. The resolution was passed to support the accomplishments and success of Latinx students in Berkeley. It was passed in response to an urgent call to action to address the significant opportunity gaps in BUSD.

Under the resolution, BUSD will implement the Latino Family Literacy program which will provide information to parents on how to get more involved in their students’ language  arts education. It will also provide more support for students and provide staff with a cultural competency framework.

The Latinx Resolution also covered the statistics of attendance, math scores, and enrollment for Latinx students.

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