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Protesters demonstrate against masks, vaccine mandates in LA public schools

Parents, children and other protestors outside the Wilshire Federal Building in Westwood on Sunday wave signs criticizing the Los Angeles Unified School District and its COVID-19 policies. The protest came amid ongoing lawsuits against the district, which previously announced that it would relax masking and COVID-19 testing protocols beginning in the second semester. (Courtesy of Victoria Li)

By Victoria Li

Dec. 6, 2021 3:26 p.m.

More than 60 people gathered outside the Wilshire Federal Building on Sunday to protest masking and vaccine requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles public schools.

Beginning at 1 p.m., the protesters – including several families with children – stood at the southwest corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue, accusing the Los Angeles Unified School District and LAUSD teaching union United Teachers Los Angeles of wrongfully forcing students to wear masks and receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Many waved signs, including ones that read “Shame on LAUSD,” “UTLA is the virus,” “MASK: Mentally Abusing School Children” and “I am vaxd but kids deserve a choice.” Groups of protesters also circled around the intersection, shouting through megaphones at passing vehicles about the supposed harm of the vaccine.

LAUSD – the second-largest school district in the nation – previously eased several COVID-19 safety policies for students Nov. 16. The updated requirements would take effect Jan. 10, ceasing weekly COVID-19 testing and lifting mask requirements outdoors for middle and high schools after the deadline to comply with the district’s vaccine mandate.

Students aged 12 or older have until the start of the second semester to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 – a mandate that the district did not extend to the recently vaccine-eligible group of children aged 5 to 11. Students who do not receive the vaccine on time must enroll in an LAUSD-run independent study program or a program outside of the district, according to the Los Angeles Times.

(Courtesy of Christine Tran)
Protesters brought a locked gate to represent their frustration with having to enroll students in an independent study program if they did not get vaccinated for COVID-19 by the district's deadline, according to KTLA. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other public health officials recommend all eligible children – those aged 5 and older – receive the vaccine. (Courtesy of Christine Tran)

Deanne Tate, an attendee at the protest, said she was not against the COVID-19 vaccine, despite being unvaccinated. She added that she believed parents should have a choice not to vaccinate their children because of the risk of side effects.

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to vaccinate their children aged 5 and above to protect against COVID-19. In addition, the vaccines are safe, effective and have undergone thorough testing before being authorized, according to the AAP.

Dozens of vehicles driving past honked their horns in solidarity with the protesters, including one LAFD ambulance. Protesters began leaving the scene at about 3 p.m.

Two lawsuits filed against the district to block the vaccine mandate have been unsuccessful thus far. An LAUSD parent filed the first suit Oct. 8, and anti-vaccination group Children’s Defense Fund filed the other Oct. 13 with Protection of the Educational Rights of Kids, a statewide organization that represents more than 900 LAUSD parents. The Los Angeles Superior Court will hold a hearing Wednesday for the second suit.

According to the LA Times, nearly 80% of LAUSD students are on track to comply with the mandate. The district’s testing program identified 296 active COVID-19 cases as of Nov. 30.

“The science is clear – vaccinations are an essential part of protection against COVID-19,” LAUSD’s website read.

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Victoria Li | Science and Health editor
Li is the 2021-2022 science and health editor. She was previously a contributor for the science and health beat. She is also a third-year human biology and society student at UCLA who enjoys writing about research and public health.
Li is the 2021-2022 science and health editor. She was previously a contributor for the science and health beat. She is also a third-year human biology and society student at UCLA who enjoys writing about research and public health.
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