Teachers are fighting back in a big way against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate being imposed by New York City.

On Monday, hundreds of people, most of whom are the Department of Education employees, descended on DOE headquarters in Brooklyn to protest the vaccine mandate that went into effect today. Protesters were seen holding American flags as well as flags that read things like “My Body My Choice,” “We gave everything and now we’re nothing,” and “Choice, not Mandates.”

“I just think this should be a personal choice,” one longtime special education teacher from Brooklyn told The New York Post. “The most distressing thing is that we were told we were essential last year, and now we’re just nothing.”

Some teachers and DOE staffers attending the rally said they had been placed on unpaid leave with health insurance after refusing to comply with orders to get vaccinated. Others said that while they are still being paid, they are banned from entering their schools while their religious or medical exemption requests are still being processed.

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The United Federation of Teachers stated that as of the start of classes on Monday, around 4,000 DOE staffers were still unvaccinated, with about half of those being teachers. With the mandate going into effect today, these employees will have the choice of either going on unpaid leave or departing the DOE with severance.

From Friday to Monday, around 18,000 vaccine doses were given to public school staffers, meaning that 97% of teachers and staffers in New York City were vaccinated as of Monday. If teachers got the shot over the weekend, they were permitted to return to class this morning.

Various people attending the rally heartbreakingly said that they personally knew co-workers who unwillingly got the vaccine only because they could not afford to lose their paychecks, as they had families to support.

The effects of these unvaccinated teachers being banned from classes are already being felt around the city. Mark Cannizzaro, president of the Council of Schools Supervisors and Administrators, told NPR that some principals struggle to find enough staffers to replace unvaccinated educators.

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“While we’re thankful that the percentage of vaccinated staff has increased systemwide since the deadline was extended, there are still too many school leaders that have been unable to find qualified substitutes for Monday,” he said.

Maurice Jones, who works at a middle school in Manhattan, said that while he got vaccinated months ago, his co-workers should not be forced to get the shot.

“If they’ve got to get tested more, they’ve got to get tested more,” Jones said. “I don’t think they should lose their job.”

This piece was written by James Samson on October 5, 2021. It originally appeared in RedVoiceMedia.com and is used by permission.

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