Decatur School District Mandates COVID-19 Vaccines For Staff

A nurse administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff in Reading, Pa.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Employees in the Decatur school system in suburban Atlanta have until the end of October to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The move could set up a showdown with Gov. Brian Kemp, who issued an executive order in May that he says bans government entities from mandating vaccines. The issue hasn’t been tested in court, though.

Decatur Superintendent Maggie Fehman issued the employee mandate on her own authority. The Decatur district, with about 1,000 employees, is the first district in Georgia known to take such a step. She said staffers who obtain an exemption would have to take a daily COVID-19 test at work, a pharmacy or somewhere else. Home tests will not be accepted.

Decatur, home to many U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory University employees, also has been discussing requiring students 12 and up to get inoculated, but is still considering whether to take that step.

“For students, this is a much bigger issue,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Fehman told school board members on Tuesday.

The sprawling Los Angeles school district has mandated that its students get vaccinated, as well as a smaller California district.

School board approval would be needed to require vaccination for the district’s 5,700 students.

Employees and students are currently required to wear masks in Decatur schools. Infection rates are relatively low, with the district reporting 20 COVID-19 cases among students and employees last week.

Some parents are supporting the requirement.

“I think a vaccine mandate is just going to make it that much more likely we can all finish the year with as many days as possible in the classroom,” parent Peter Isbister told WAGA-TV.

Kavia Kreitel, who has three children enrolled in Decatur, said it’s “only responsible” for teachers to be required to get inoculated.

“I work in health care,” Kreitel said. “I have had three doses of this vaccine and it is completely safe, and I think it’s what’s going to get us out of this.”

Others are opposed, though. Parent Anna Hinson told school board members it would override parental authority and take away from students’ ability to think for themselves.

“With a mandate, you would be telling the kids you teach that no matter how curious, self-directed, self-aware and autonomous they are in their growth process, there will always be an authoritative power that is ready to squash the direction of their growth and independence if it does not conform,” she said.