The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second-largest school system in the country, with more than 600,000 students. It is also the largest district to implement a vaccine mandate, not just for employees, but also for students.
District officials had set a deadline of January 10 for everyone 12 and older to get vaccinated, but some 34,000 eligible young people have declined to get jabbed. As recently as Friday, the district's plan was to exile all these students back to the land of virtual learning, according to The Washington Post. Unvaccinated L.A. students are likely to receive a reprieve, however: The school board is expected to vote on Tuesday to delay enforcement of the mandate until the fall semester.
But the mere fact that punishing thousands of teenagers for not being vaccinated was even on the table is disconcerting. Indeed, throughout the pandemic, the enforcers of COVID-19 restrictions have had few qualms about making children miserable—even though the under-18 crowd has little to fear from the disease. Young people are the cohort safest from COVID-19, whether or not they are vaccinated; vaccinated seniors are at significantly greater risk than unvaccinated teenagers. Despite this reality, children and teenagers in the U.S. face the most stringent and brutally uncompromising pandemic prevention policies of all, especially at public schools.
Many New York City public schools, for instance, will now be retaliating against unvaccinated teenagers by prohibiting them from playing sports and participating in extracurricular activities if they're unvaccinated. A public service announcement recently warned teenagers to get vaccinated or else miss out on their social lives:
My taxpayer dollars are going to government commercials taunting teenagers (who have had a godawful time these past two years) for being excluded from activities the government is now excluding them from. https://t.co/wTZFj5vl5w
— Matt Welch (@MattWelch) December 13, 2021
It's one thing to encourage teenagers to get vaccinated: It's quite another to threaten them with further setbacks to their social lives and educational careers if they do not comply. Healthy young people have very little to fear from COVID-19, but two years of social isolation, school closures, and virtual learning are undoubtedly having a profoundly negative effect. Elementary and middle school test scores—particularly among minority students—are plummeting; and according to the surgeon general, more young people are experiencing depressive episodes than ever before.
Public schools shouldn't shame and sanction unvaccinated students, nor should they continue to rely on virtual learning. None of these policies are in the best interests of kids and teenagers. They need their lives to go back to normal.