In one Illinois school district, at least 64 employees have been given an ultimatum: get the coronavirus vaccine or face termination.
The school board for CCSD21, which is located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, unanimously passed a Chinese coronavirus vaccine mandate on July 22 for all teachers and staff. Employees will be expected to show proof of vaccination by October 1 as a “condition of employment,” according to the district.
One staff member, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said none of the staff had much, if any input or warning before the school district decided to make vaccinations mandatory.
“One of my coworkers saw the board minutes that were posted about two days before the vote. That’s how I was able to find out,” the staff member told Breitbart News.
The mandate on the school district’s website lists coronavirus vaccination as “a condition of employment” but provides room for religious and medical exemption. The new rule will impact at least 13 schools which span across six different communities.
CCSD21 Superintendent Michael Connolly confirmed to Breitbart News that employees could be fired for not complying.
“Employees who do not comply by October 1st AND who have not filed a medical exemption or sincerely held religious exemption are subject to progressive discipline up to and including dismissal,” Connolly wrote to Breitbart News via email. (emphasis added).
According to a school district slide show on staff vaccinations, 93 percent of staff have already been vaccinated. However, at least 64 employees have yet to get jabbed, a majority of whom did not wish to disclose their reasons for skipping the vaccine.
Connolly also told Breitbart News “natural immunity” would not be considered a valid reason for medical exemption — a part of the policy that concerned the anonymous staff member who spoke with Breitbart News. He said he is not an “anti-vaxxer,” but he suffered a more severe case of Chinese coronavirus for several weeks last year and is not keen on getting vaccinated just yet.
“I believe that in telling someone they will lose their job if they [don’t] take it — that’s a form of forcing,” he said.
According to internal emails obtained by Breitbart News, the president of the local teacher’s union, District 21 Education Association, said the mandate will impact “very few people.”
The union is a local branch of the National Education Association (NEA), which is the largest teachers union in the country. According to the same internal email, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) and the NEA reportedly told local president Greg Piecuch “the district has the legal authority to mandate vaccines, regardless of Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the vaccines.”
“It’s important to note that both the IEA and the NEA strongly believe that all school employees receive the COVID vaccine,” Piecuch said in the email to staff.
Breitbart News asked both the IEA and NEA if they had anything to do with CCSD21’s decision to mandate vaccinations. Neither responded to request for comment. Notably, the NEA attempted but failed to pass “New Business Item 33″ this year, which pushed for mandatory vaccinations, mask-wearing, and social distancing in schools. The union later removed several business items from its website, including a controversial one expressing support for Critical Race Theory.
Piecuch noted in the email that the local union told the school board “this is something we would not like to see happen,” but to no avail. The anonymous employee said while local union disapproval was likely, he does not believe it truly went to bat for the employees it represents.
“This was not something that was negotiable and it was clear that the Board was going to do this regardless of our opinion,” Piecuch wrote.
According to a memo from the district, the school board passed the mandate to protect against growing Delta coronavirus cases.
“…The clear evidence shows that the most effective way to mitigate and manage the virus is to
achieve maximum levels of vaccination,” the memo reads, without mentioning breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals.
A spokesperson for the school district said the district did not consult the teachers unions before deciding to make vaccinations mandatory. Breitbart News also reached out to Piecuch for comment, but he did not respond.
Sandra Ravenna, who is a parent and has been a substitute teacher in the district for more than five years, spoke at the school board meeting on July 22 in opposition to the mandate:
No one can use this “variant” as the excuse in any case to force masks or vaccinations, unless you choose to be uneducated and use the fear tactic to control the district. [Don’t] communist countries use this fear tactic on their people? Last I checked, America was still a Constitutional Republic.
Ravenna said many teachers she knows are afraid to speak up because of “cancel culture” and do not want to lose their jobs.
“You don’t know who to trust. You don’t know who’s going to turn around and turn you in,” she said.”It’s like high school. It’s like cafeteria drama….but we’re adults and this is not just drama. [These are] our real lives.”
The anonymous staff member said if he loses his job, he will not be able to properly take care of his family. He would be unemployed in a state which, as of June, had a 7.7 percent unemployment rate — well above the national average.
“It would make it difficult to pay bills and my mortgage. I didn’t expect to have that source of income taken from me,” he said, while alleging staff signed their yearly contracts before they were made aware of the new mandate.
New York City will similarly require all of its municipal workers — including teachers and police officers – to get vaccinated by mid-September, although workers who do not wish to get vaccinated could be tested weekly instead.
Governor of Illinois J.B. Pritzker (D) on Wednesday announced a statewide school mask mandate, which will apply to all K-12 schools and daycares, both public and private, ABC7 reported.
He also announced that, effective October 4, vaccines will be “mandated for state employees who work in congregate settings, including veterans’ homes, long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, developmental centers and psychiatric hospitals.”
He did not explicitly say if the vaccine mandate includes teachers and school staff. CCSD21 made masking mandatory for unvaccinated students and staff at the same time it mandated vaccines for staff a few weeks back.
Florida-based public interest law firm Liberty Counsel said in addition to the fact that the COVID vaccines are distributed under authorization of emergency use, and do not have full FDA approval, the shots “cannot be mandatory under Title VII,” Breitbart News reported.
The firm also promoted a grassroots movement protesting mandatory workplace COVID-19 vaccines on August 11 called “WalkOutWednesday.”
“In addition to federal law, the FDA includes the Nuremberg Code and the Helsinki Declaration on its website, emphasizing the fact that people cannot be forced to take experimental drugs without their full consent,” the firm stated.
Ravenna said speaking out in the face of district overreach is crucial, even at the risk of disciplinary action.
“I didn’t want this to be a thing. I didn’t want to have to do an interview,” she said. “I didn’t want to have to go to the school board, but they push people to the point where if you don’t say something [you’re just] complicit in what they want — how much more are they going to take?”
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