Justice Sotomayor rejects request to block New York City school vaccine mandate
Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images

Justice Sotomayor rejects request to block New York City school vaccine mandate

Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Friday denied a request from a group of New York City teachers to block the city’s vaccine mandate for public school employees.

Sotomayor did not refer the request to the other Supreme Court justices, or comment on her action, likely signaling they agreed with her decision. In August, Justice Amy Coney Barrett likewise rejected an effort to block Indiana University’s vaccine mandate.

In court papers, lawyers for the teachers argued that New York City, as well as the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, have placed an “unconstitutional burden” on public school teachers. They wanted the high court to block the mandate while the appeals process played out.

In August, New York city officials issued an order requiring Department of Education staff who “work in-person” in a school setting or building to submit proof of at least one dose of vaccination of Covid-19.

The lawyers argued that instead of allowing teachers the opportunity to opt out of the vaccine mandate through weekly testing, the city’s mandate “forces unvaccinated public-school employees to go on unpaid leave for nearly a year.”

The challengers in the case gave different reasons for not wanting to get the vaccine including a concern over the long-term effects of the vaccine. They say the mandate “threatens the education of thousands of children in the largest public-school system in the country and violates the substantive due process and equal protection rights afforded to all public-school employees.”

A federal district court had declined to block the mandate holding that it “represents a rational policy decision surrounding how best to protect children during a global pandemic.”

The court said that although there are other means of preventing the spread of Covid 19, “it is not shocking for the City to conclude that vaccination is the best way to do so, particularly at a time when viral transmission rates are high.”

A federal appeals court initially put the mandate on hold, but later lifted the order.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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