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Teachers protest COVID-19 vaccine mandate in Brooklyn

With 97 percent of teachers vaccinated, the un-vaxed will be placed on unpaid leave

October 4, 2021 By Mary Frost, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Waving signs and chanting “My body, my choice,” a group of anti-mandatory vaccination teachers and school staff members protested the city’s COVID vaccine mandate outside a New York City Department of Education building at 65 Court St. in Brooklyn on Monday.

Monday was the deadline for all 148,000 school personnel to have received at least their first dose. At a school visit in Manhattan, also on Monday morning, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said 97 percent of teachers have been vaccinated.

“If they are not vaccinated … we’ll move substitutes into place – who are vaccinated obviously – and are ready and willing, and really excited to take on these roles and people who want to become teachers in our school system permanently,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told Brian Lehrer on WNYC radio on Friday. “So, that will be in place for Monday morning.”

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According to the Real Clear Politics website, some of the teachers taking part in the Brooklyn protest chanted “Let us teach,” “The system is corrupt,” “We will not comply,” “Shame on you,” and more colorfully, “F— Joe Biden and de Blasio.” A spokesperson for the UFT told the Eagle via email that this was not an official UFT event.

After the protest, the crowd went over the Brooklyn Bridge, shutting down the Manhattan-bound lane.

New York City is the first city to require all school staff be vaccinated, though the city’s mandate allows for medical and religious exemptions. School employees who do not have an approved exemption and have not submitted proof of vaccination were removed by the DOE from payroll and placed automatically on unpaid leave starting Monday.

On Sept. 27, a federal appeals court lifted a temporary restraining order against the mandate and gave the city the green light to proceed.

In a response, Mulgrew said a survey of teachers showed a third of them felt that, “given the potential shortage of [vaccinated] personnel, including school aides and security personnel,” there may still be disruption as schools open.

—Additional material by Raanan Geberer

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