Schools in Washington, D.C. are requiring all students aged 12 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to the classroom this fall. Students who don't get it won't be allowed in the classroom and could face expulsion (via Council of the District of Columbia):
No student shall be admitted by a school unless the school has certification of COVID-19 immunization for that student or the student is exempted.
Students can get exemptions if a parent or guardian provides written evidence receiving a vaccine would violate their religious beliefs or if a physician certifies in writing it is unsafe for the student to get the shot.
The mandate applies not only to public schools in the district but also public charter schools and private schools. Students who don't get the vaccine could be sent out of school after a period of time:
A school shall permit a student to attend for not more than 20 school days while the school does not have certification of immunization for that student. If immunization requires a series of treatments that cannot be completed within the 20 school days, the student shall be permitted to attend school while the treatments are continuing if, within the 20 school days, the school receives written notification from whomever is administering it that the immunization is in progress.
Innovate Schools researched the effects COVID lockdowns and online learning have had on K-12 students in California. The data are bleak. Since schools shut down in 2020, young people have been hugely stunted in their educational, social, and emotional development.
One of Innovate's most consequential findings was that disengagement has huge, long-term impacts on kids' education. Students who are disengaged are more likely to be absent from class or get frustrated with their learning. Online learning is one of the biggest culprits of disengagement for many reasons. For one, students in low income families are less likely to have reliable access to internet. In California, 17% of students don't even have a computer at home.
Disengaging from school makes students much more likely to drop out and students who drop out usually don't come back. Thirty percent of dropouts re-enroll after initially leaving and only 18% of students who re-enroll will actually graduate high school. Almost half of all jobs require a high school diploma, especially jobs that allow for upward mobility and career growth. Disengagement and absence from school leads to learning loss, especially in younger students who should be learning foundational skills like reading and writing.
Isolation from the classroom has also negatively impacted students' mental health and emotional wellbeing in big ways. From March 2020 to February 2021, the percentage of 12-17 year olds visiting the emergency room for mental health reasons went up 31%. One hospital in Oakland saw a 66% increase in suicidal emergencies among 10-17 year olds in 2020. A poll done by McKinsey & Company found that 80% of parents in the country had some level of concern for the mental wellbeing of their children.
Children are suffering, and it's preventable. All the detrimental consequences of lockdowns and forcing children out of the classroom could be repeated with D.C.'s vaccine mandate in place.
By Maddy Welsh