Following widespread reports Gov. Philip D. Murphy could soon be enacting a mandate requiring all New Jersey public school teachers be vaccinated against COVID-19, some educators are up in arms while others are perfectly content. At the same time, a sampling of local parents of school-age kids on whether their children’s teachers should be vaccinated is also mixed.
The potential vaccination mandate was reported by nj.com late last week and that report says it’s unclear whether regular testing of unvaccinated teachers would be acceptable, in lieu of getting the shots, as one state will allow.
California and Washington are the two states that have already mandated teacher vaccinations. California allows for the regular-testing option. Washington does not.
WHAT EDUCATORS ARE SAYING
Dr. James P. Doran is the director of personnel for the Harrison School District and the assistant superintendent of schools, by title. He says he strongly hopes the governor mandates staff vaccinations for school employees.
“I firmly believe that every public school employee should be vaccinated for Covid-19 and hope that the governor and state Department Of Education would mandate same,” Doran, also a Harrison councilman, told The Observer. “This mandate would further support the BOE goals for continuity of instruction leading to less teacher absenteeism, safer school environments and the reduction of Covid-19 spread. The Harrison BOE is also encouraging the mandatory vaccination of all students 12-17 years old for the very same reasons.
“We are vigorously offering opportunities for students to get vaccinated via the Harrison Health Department. We also support preparing for the vaccination approval for the younger (3- to 12-year-old) students. There is no question that there has been a loss of learning for our students due to the pandemic. Fully vaccinating staff and students is the only way to protect the health and academic success of our students.
“We are preparing for full-day, in-person instruction of all grades effective Sept. 8. We will be following the CDC and state recommendations, requiring masks for all students, staff and visitors. We will also practice social distancing wherever possible. Hopefully, with increased vaccinations, we will be able to return to a no-mask policy in the near future.”
The Observer also spoke with a teacher who works under Doran in Harrison, but who asked for anonymity for fear sharing their opinion could lead to reprisals. That teacher said “no way” to being forced into getting the vaccine.
“I am a grown adult and I make my own decisions — I do not needing anyone telling me what I will and won’t inject into my body,” the teacher told The Observer. “This isn’t about personalities or politics, either. I like the governor. I like the leadership in the district a lot. But I should not have to get injected with a vaccine that is still only on an emergency-use authorization. OK? It’s that easy. If they tell me I have to get the shot, I’m not doing it. If it costs me my job, it costs me my job.”
The aforementioned teacher did say if the government offered a financial incentive to get the vaccine, “It might be a completely different story.”
WHAT PARENTS ARE SAYING
The Observer also spoke with a smattering of parents in our readership area. Their reactions to the possible mandate vary. Alexander J. Rosen is the father of a sixth-grader in Harrison. He says the governor is doing the right thing, especially since Murphy isn’t allowing hybrid learning options at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.
“I am still not sure I want my son going to school especially now with the Delta variant,” Rosen said. “But since he has to go in, I want to be sure his teachers are going to be safe. It’s one thing to wear a mask, but a new ballgame when it comes to the vaccine. I still just don’t get it why anyone wouldn’t want to have a vaccine for a disease that has proven again and again to be so deadly. So I say protect the kids — make sure the teachers are vaccinated or don’t let them teach.”
Rosen is not alone.
Maria Rosa Grotto, the mother of two high school aged children, says she’s all for the forced vaccination on teachers.
“It’s just so stupid to do it any way other than to mandate vaccine for teachers,” Grotto said. “I am not really someone who wants to force anybody to do anything, but this … this is very different. Nothing in my life matters more than the safety of my daughter and son. So, yeah, let them get the vaccine. Shouldn’t they want to get it anyway?”
But not all parents are in favor of forcing teachers to get the shot, especially if it’s against their will.
Salvatore DiBenedetto is the father of three children — two in grammar school and one in high school — and he’s confident his kids’ teachers will use universal precautions not to get them sick.
“I believe grown adults, especially teachers, will know that if they have COVID, they shouldn’t be in school,” DiBenedetto said. “The kids will be required to wear masks during the school day and the teachers will be masked up too, right? So let’s think about this. Isn’t that enough to make sure the kids are safe? No one, not just teachers, should be forced to do this. It’s not right and typical Phil Murphy. The guy just got back from Italy and I would bet anything he didn’t wear a mask wherever he went. Or if he did, he did it just for the cameras so he didn’t look like an idiot. That’s not hard for him to do anyway.”
Check back at www.theobserver.com for updates to this evolving story. If there are updates, they’ll also appear in the Sept. 1, 2021, edition of The Observer.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.