The District of Columbia will not allow unvaccinated students to attend school and will offer no alternative learning options, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D.) announced on Thursday.
The Coronavirus Immunization of School Students and Early Childhood Workers Amendment Act of 2021 "requires students ages 12 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend school," the mayor's press release stated. The act does allow people to file religious or medical exemptions. Once school begins on Monday, students have 20 days to file their immunization certification, "or they will not be allowed to attend school or school activities until the immunization certification is secured by the school," the Office of the State Superintendent of Education said.
When asked if there would be alternative options for unvaccinated students, Bowser responded, "We're not offering remote learning for children, and families will need to comply with what is necessary to come to school," the Daily Signal reported.
"They can go to school on Monday. But they need to get their vaccinations," Bowser continued.
According to the district's official COVID-19 tracking website, 72 percent of students in the district ages 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated, but only 53 percent of 12-to-15-year-old black students are fully vaccinated.
Bowser's announcement came on the same day that a D.C. Superior Court judge struck down the mayor's vaccine mandate for all government employees. The D.C. Police Union in February filed a lawsuit against the mayor's mandate. Judge Maurice Ross ruled that Bowser does not have the legal authority to issue the order.
"Going forward, we will comply with the court's orders, as we continue encouraging our community to access life-saving vaccines," Bowser said in response to the ruling.
D.C. is the only state or state-like government in the country to mandate vaccines this year, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy's August 2022 report. California's mandate is pending and would not begin until July 2023. Twenty states have banned vaccine mandates.