NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tuesday was the second day of the vaccine mandate for staff in New York City public schools.
That meant all employees inside buildings must be vaccinated.READ MORE: Storm Watch: Timeline Of Rare October Nor'Easter Approaching Tri-State Area
Some who refused were back in federal court seeking an emergency ruling on their requests for religious exemptions.
As CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported, some unvaccinated city staffers erupted in anger outside federal court on Pearl Street moments after a judge turned down requests by nine employees for a temporary restraining order on the vaccine mandate.
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They allege the city should be providing religious exemptions, but isn’t unless a staffer provides a note from clergy or belongs to an organized religion.
Stephanie Edmonds is not a plaintiff, but listened in as she’s in a similar situation.
“I’m Jewish, and so the city made the point that, well, you’re not not part of a temple. You don’t actively attend a temple, and you don’t have a letter from a rabbi,” Edmonds said. “I think everybody’s’ individual connection with God is their own. No religion is a monolith.”
Proving irreparable harm is required to win an emergency ruling like this, and the judge said it wasn’t there because the plaintiffs are still getting health insurance while on unpaid leave.
Outside the Department of Education in Brooklyn, anti-vaccine mandate school staff protested.READ MORE: Storm Watch: Flood Safety Tips, Power Outage Links & More
Mayor Bill de Blasio said this is now a small minority of school employees, adding 95% of all staff have the vaccine, and 600 more got the first shot since Monday.
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“We had more substitutes ready to go than we needed, and that’s good. That’s a good problem to have,” he said.
De Blasio said representatives from the White House praised the effort and said other districts around the country should follow New York City’s example.
“We had in fact 15,000 substitute teachers — both substitute teachers, substitute paraprofessionals — ready, ready to go into play. We didn’t need all of them, I’m happy to say. We had 7,000 substitute teachers. We brought in 1,000 of our central staff. Schools ran smoothly because we’re prepared, but most especially because 95% of school staff got vaccinated,” de Blasio said.
But special needs advocate and CUNY professor Heather Clarke said there’s not enough paraprofessional substitutes to step in for unvaccinated ones.
“They really are bonded. They really are part of the family,” Clarke said. “Showed up to school yesterday and today and there was no special needs para for their children.”
City Council Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger said he’ll hold an oversight hearing on Wednesday morning to look into the rollout of the mandate on COVID protocols in the school system. The DOE’s first deputy chancellor, the director of the situation room, and a representative from the Health Department are expected to testify.
School staff seeking exceptions to the mandate will be back in federal court next week.MORE NEWS: New York City Workers, Supporters March Across Brooklyn Bridge To Protest Approaching Vaccine Mandate
Editor’s note: This story first appeared on October 5, 2021.