MANHATTAN, NY – A number of teachers in New York City have filed a lawsuit this week over their recent terminations due to refusing to adhere to a mandate issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio that all public school teachers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 1.
Mayor de Blasio’s mandate covered all of the city’s 148,000 public school teachers and staff, giving them until 5 p.m. on October 1 to receive at least their first jab; de Blasio issued a last warning on Friday to those teachers who were still not inoculated, telling them that they would be suspended without pay when schools opened for the fall semester on October 4.
The NYC schools vaccination mandate does not include a option to opt-out in favor or mask-wearing and regular testing, but does allow for medical and religious exemptions.
Many of those involved with the lawsuit, including 20-year Brooklyn teacher Trinidad Smith, noted to Fox News that they were unable to successfully get religious or medical exemptions in order to keep working.
“It saddens me. I love my kids and I love the community that I work in and I love my school staff,” she said.
Nwakaego Nwaifejokwu, who has been teaching in the Bronx for the past 11 years, said that she is disappointed that she can’t be with her students at this time.
“I was really looking forward to coming back to the school year so that we can work with the students because they lost two years already. We thought this was going to be the year where we were going to make up for those losses,” she said, adding that she has applied for a religious exemption but that many of them were not being accepted.
With the suspensions now in full effect, city school districts will fill gaps by bringing in substitutes teachers. The exact number of suspensions, or the number of teachers involved in the lawsuit, is not currently known.
Last week, NYC teachers have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to issue an emergency injunction that would put a temporary halt to the city’s vaccine mandate, but the Associated Press reported a federal appeals panel had rejected the request.
After failing to clear that legal hurdle, Smith said that the suspended teachers were attempting to obtain a temporary restraining order, in addition to the lawsuit against the city that is currently ongoing.
“This is definitely the last attempt for us,” she said. “And we hope that at least it buys us a little time so that we have an opportunity to be heard in the Supreme Court to at least plead our case because that is what this country is founded on is an opportunity to at least be heard.”
According to de Blasio, currently 90 percent of NYC school employees have received at least one dose of vaccine.