DC schools’ COVID-19 immunization mandate could hit black students hardest

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Washington, DC, students over the age of 12 must take the COVID-19 vaccine to attend school, a decision that could make the city’s black students hard.

“Our goal is that no child misses a single day of school,” Asad Bandealy, chief of the DC Department of Health’s Health Care Access Bureau, said of the mandate, according to a Washington Post report. “And that means we have to start now.”

About 85% of Washington, DC’s student population ages 12 to 15 is currently vaccinated against COVID-19, but only 60% of black students in the same age group have received the vaccine. If the vaccination mandate is strictly enforced, it could create more stress for minority communities that have already been disproportionately harmed by COVID-19 policies.

According to a Harvard University study, closed schools during the coronavirus pandemic led to major underperformance among students, particularly minority and low-income students.


Muriel Browser, Mayor of Washington DC.

Muriel Browser, Mayor of Washington DC.
(Photo by Olivier DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

“Students in high-poverty schools that were remote for most of 2020-21 lost about 0.45 standard deviations in math,” said Thomas Kane, a Harvard professor of education and one of the study’s authors, of the findings of the study in an interview with the Harvard Gazette earlier this year.

Kane said attainment gaps widened even worse in districts that spent more than three weeks on distance learning, arguing that in-person instruction was a “critical part of our social infrastructure that we would have taken for granted.”

But many students in the state capital could now be forced back into remote learning situations with the vaccination requirement, which is one of the strictest in the country.

Students in New York City are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated but are not required to do so unless they plan to participate in specific athletic programs, while students in Los Angeles are not required to get vaccinated after the Los Angeles Unified School District has delayed a mandate that should be implemented for the upcoming school year.


Washington DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.

Washington DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
(Council of Washington DC)

One of the few major counties in the country with policies similar to Washington, DC, New Orleans added the coronavirus vaccine to a list of required vaccinations for students over the age of 5 in February.

The nation’s capital has one of the country’s unique public school systems, governed by the 13-member DC Council rather than a school board. Anne Liu, an infectious disease physician and clinical associate professor at Stanford University, told the Washington Post that officials hope mandates like the one in DC will help increase childhood immunization rates.

“I think it’s going to benefit the kids, teachers and staff in the schools and the rest of the city,” Liu said, calling higher vaccination rates a “positive thing to work towards.”

The offices of DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Mayor Muriel Bowser did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.

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