NEW YORK — A group of New York City teachers has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an injunction to stop the city from enforcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, court records show.
The emergency injunction request was filed Thursday, a day before Department of Education employees must receive at least their first COVID-19 shot to continue working.
“While a temporary interruption of work is not actionable, the mandate here would have a permanent effect: it is open-ended, where if a teacher never gets vaccinated, he or she will never be able to return to work,” the plaintiffs said in their petition.
The petitioners say an immediate injunction is necessary, arguing the “Court will lose the opportunity to provide meaningful relief” to public school employees if it does not issue an injunction before the Friday 5 p.m. deadline for DOE staff to get their first shot.
The mandate, which was originally supposed to go into effect this past Monday, requires all teachers and staff to get at least one dose of the vaccine. Unlike other municipal workers, DOE employees cannot test out. Opponents sued over the mandate, saying it’s unconstitutional.
The petitioners Thursday argued the mandate puts students’ education at risk, and would result in thousands of unvaccinated public school employees losing their jobs.
“This obvious and immediate harm is a violation of the substantive due process and equal protection rights,” the plaintiffs said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said firings would not be immediate, but urged DOE staff to get vaccinated if they want to to keep their jobs.
De Blasio on Friday morning said about 90% of city education department employees are vaccinated, including 93% of teachers and 98% of principals. DOE employees and teachers won't be able to go into school buildings this coming Monday unless they get their first shot by Friday at 5 p.m.
Officials say they have a reserve pool of 11,000 substitute teachers, as well as former teachers working in other areas in the department, that could be tapped if there are any staffing shortages related to the mandate going into effect. Right now, about 10,000 teachers remain unvaccinated.
“Plaintiffs have no valid claims and have stated no basis for the Court's intervention,” Katie O’Hanlon, a city Department of Education spokesperson, said in a statement. "Courts have spoken. The Health Department has the authority to implement a mandate that is firmly grounded in science and the expertise of public health officials from across the nation."
The mandate has gone back and forth in courts in recent weeks, including earlier this week, when a federal appeals panel ruled Monday that the city could move forward with the requirement.
This story includes reporting from Jillian Jorgensen.
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