More than three dozen Carpinteria parents joined California parents across the state on Monday in protesting Governor Gavin Newsom’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for California schools. Protestors – many with their children in tow – waved American flags and drew honks from passing cars.
Amidst signs such as “I am not an experiment,” “My mom calls the shots” and “I don’t co-parent with the government,” protestors stood outside of the Carpinteria Unified School District administrative office for a few hours. As part of the protest, parents either took their children with them to sit outside of the district office or kept them out of school – at home – for the day.
CUSD Superintendent Diana Rigby said that the district “expects students to be in school.”
“Our students have missed so much in-school in the last 18 months that they really need to be in school,” Rigby told CVN.
In early October, Newsom announced that once the FDA issues full Covid-19 vaccine approval for children, all schoolchildren will be required to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in order to attend California schools.
The mandate would first apply to children in grades seven through 12, and then kindergarten through sixth grade. If the Covid-19 vaccine is approved federally before the end of 2021, students older than 12 would be required to have the vaccine as early as June 2022, Newsom said in his announcement.
Under the current plan – unlike other vaccine requirements – the mandate allows for an exemption to the Covid-19 vaccine requirement based on personal beliefs, such as religious or ideological reasons.
Kacey Gritt, a Carpinteria parent, said the Carpinteria protest planning began with a group of four or five local moms, and grew from there. She protested on Monday because she believes the mandate is “an issue about choice.”
“I believe anybody who wants the vaccine should be able to choose to get it. I also believe anybody who doesn’t want it should be able to make that choice,” she said. “I am not anti-vax, however, I am anti-force and coercion.”
“We have a right to bodily autonomy, my children have a right to public education and that is something I’m willing to fight for. I know a lot of parents, myself included that will be pulling their kids from school (public and private) if this mandate goes through,” she added.
Gritt said she hopes that CUSD will push back and begin “standing with us” against the Covid-19 vaccine mandate. She added that she has concerns about Covid-19 vaccine complications for her children.
Parent Tenille Serpa added that she is hoping that the district “will hear us” and “stand with us.”
“My main concern about the vaccine is that there is not enough research and too much risk,” she said. “Mandating a vaccine that is less than five years old with unknown long-term effects and no longer-term studies is way too risky. That’s a risk I am not willing to take for myself or my children.”
In the first six weeks of school, the district reported seven Covid-19 cases among its students, and three among its vaccinated staff. Per the district, approximately 90% of school district employees are vaccinated.
Current studies show that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines prevented roughly 95% of symptomatic illness, according to the New York Times. The only Covid-19 vaccine that has received full FDA approval so far is the Pfizer vaccine, which is only fully approved for people 16 and older.
In Santa Barbara County, as of last week, 69.7% of the eligible county population is fully vaccinated, compared to 59.3% of the total county population. The county is consistently reporting higher numbers of Covid-19 among unvaccinated populations compared to vaccinated populations.