Supreme Court justice denies injunction on NYC school vaccine mandate

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The deadline has passed for unvaccinated New York City public school employees to get their first dose of the COVID-19 shot or face suspension and possible termination, after Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor declined to provide a last minute reprieve Friday.

Sotomayor denied the request by a group of teachers for an emergency injunction. She did not issue any explanation or statement, and she did not refer the matter to the full court for a vote.

As the justice overseeing the Second Circuit, Sotomayor has discretion to address emergency applications on her own.

The city had given its roughly 148,000 school employees until 5 p.m. to get their first shot or be suspended without pay when schools open on Monday.

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Teachers Rachel Maniscalco, Evelyn Arancio, Diana Salomon, and Corinne Lynch petitioned the court, claiming the mandate violates their due process and equal protection rights.

"If permitted to take effect, the August 23 Order will force thousands of unvaccinated public-school employees to lose their jobs while other municipal employees, including those who have significant contact with children, are allowed to opt-out of the vaccine mandate through weekly COVID-19 testing," the petition said. "As the number of unvaccinated is small compared to that of the vaccinated, there is no basis to mandate vaccines in lieu of weekly testing."

The teachers say they have a fundamental right to their respected profession as public school teachers, and their attorneys, Mark Fonte and Louis Gelormino, issued the following statement after Sotomayor's decision.

"We are extremely disappointed with the decision of the United State Supreme Court. The voices of our teachers deserved to be heard. Vaccine mandates for adults has not been argued before the Court in over a century. These unconstitutional edicts will continue throughout the nation until our Courts decide to hear our argument that the Government has gone too far. Our children are the ones who will suffer the most. The teachers that our kids are so fond of will no longer be in the classroom. The safety of our children will be compromised with the absence of school safety officers. The public school system, like the rest of the city, will be tragically degraded by these mayoral decisions. May God help our teachers and children."

Earlier this week, a federal appeals court dissolved a temporary injunction and allowed the mandate to stand.
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The unvaccinated teachers said they should be given an option to regularly test rather than forced to get the shot, and they accused the city of failing to explain why that alternative was not made available.

"I do not believe that this is just about a vaccine," Maniscalco said. "I do not believe this is just about our health. This is about medical freedom. This is about totalitarianism."

However, Mayor Bill de Blasio, most public health experts, and even most teachers say that's not the case.

As of Friday, de Blasio said 90% of public school employees -- including 93% of teachers and 98% of principals -- have had at least one shot.

"This mandate has worked," he said.

De Blasio also said the number of vaccinated school employees "are going to go up in the next 24 hours, for sure."

The mayor has also resisted calls from parents, vaccinated teachers and union officials who worry firing the unvaccinated will lead to understaffed and overcrowded classrooms.

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Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter on Friday reiterated that the city believes they have enough substitutes for Monday.

"We've been working on those plans every single day, and I'm going to continue to encourage our teachers to be vaccinated because we want them in our classrooms," she said. "However, what we are also excited about as we head into this moment is that we have more subs that are vaccinated then unvaccinated teachers, and our superintendents have been working with our principals to ensure our children get the education and continue to get the education they deserve in person."

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