School sit-outs, downtown rallies: Inside the Kern County vaccine mandate protests

Coronavirus

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A statewide protest against a COVID vaccine mandate for school children sent ripple effects across the county yesterday. Children of all ages sat out of school, and teachers walked off the job.

“It is our American right to say no to something foreign in our bodies that we don’t want,” Valley Oaks Charter teacher Lori Cisneros said.

Rosedale Union and Kern High School districts both saw 20 percent increases in absences yesterday. Norris School District, where parents demonstrated against the mandate last week, logged more than 30 teacher absences.

Many of those teachers and students and their parents made their way to the Kern County Superintendent of Schools offices downtown Bakersfield, where the crowd was so large, it spilled into the street.

“I’m not against the vaccine. I think the vaccine is a great thing,” Centennial High student and rallygoer Sammy Wells said. “The fact that we developed one so quick is great. It’s beautiful. But I don’t think we should be mandating it for every student in the state yet. I think it should be up to the parents to make that decision.”

The group’s actions, though, may have been misdirected.

In a statement, KCSOS explained the mandate is a state order, meaning school districts and even the superintendent’s office have little sway. In fact, school districts could face legal and financial consequences for non-compliance.

Exemptions for the COVID vaccine requirement are much broader than those for other vaccines required by California public schools. The state allows for a “personal belief” exemption submitted on behalf of the student.

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