Credit: KCBS Radio
A large crowd showed up at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Oct. 18 for a protest organized by Our Kids, Our Choice, a grassroots parents group that opposes the vaccine mandate.

Thousands of California school staff and students didn’t attend school Monday in protest of a state order that requires all K-12 students to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by July.

Social media posts calling for a “school walkout” began circulating a few weeks ago. Some posts urged parents not to call their children in sick but rather to tell the school attendance office that their children were being kept out of school to protest the vaccine mandate.

It’s not clear how many California students and school staff stayed out, but the percentage of students not showing up for school was highest in rural, more conservative areas of the state.

Instead of attending school, some parents, students and school employees joined protests. Several hundred people gathered at the Tehama County Superior Court in Red Bluff and at a park in Redding in Shasta County on Monday morning to protest the vaccine mandate.

Lassen High School started late to give families and staff time to protest and to spell out the word “choice” on the football field. At Clovis Unified in Fresno County, 20 people prayed in in protest in front of the district office. 

In Southern California, parents, students and staff in San Dimas, San Diego and Huntington Beach also protested the mandates, according to media reports.

A large group also showed up at the state Capitol in Sacramento for a protest organized by Our Kids, Our Choice, a grassroots parents group. The permit for the protest, approved by the California Highway Patrol, allowed up to 2,500 people.

“We believe it is in our best interest as a society to maintain freedom of choice for what we put into our children’s bodies and our own,” organizers stated on the group’s website. “We oppose efforts to take away our parental freedom to protect our children and make decisions in our children’s best interest.”

In neighboring Elk Grove Unified, the fifth-largest school district in the state, there were no reports of protests at the district’s schools or its headquarters, said Xanthi Soriano, district spokeswoman. The district reported about a 3% drop in attendance compared with the previous Monday.

Preliminary data from Los Angeles Unified shows that 88% of its students reported to school Monday, slightly lower than the 90% attendance rate for the previous two Mondays.

But by noon Monday, Modoc Joint Unified School District was reporting that 75% of its students did not show up for school, said Tim Taylor, executive director of the Small School Districts’ Association. Attendance was down 25% at Placerville Union School District in El Dorado County and 40% at Oroville Union High School District in Butte County, according to Taylor. In Glenn County, school districts reported between 25% and 60% of their students did not attend school.

In Siskiyou County, two schools had less than 35% attendance, according to Jami Thomas, superintendent of the Delphic Elementary and Gazelle Union Elementary school districts. One school had no classified staff show up to work, Thomas said.

At Clovis Unified, a hotbed of vaccine and mask resistance, about 10% more staff than normal were absent that day and 7 percent fewer students attended school compared to the last two Mondays, according to Kelly Avants, district spokeswoman. 

But Janesville Elementary School in Lassen County had to close Monday morning because not enough staff showed up for work to safely supervise and instruct students, said Patricia Gunderson, Lassen County superintendent of schools.

About half of students parents in the county are opposed to vaccinating students, she said. There has even been pushback from parents and school districts about testing for Covid-19.

In Twin Rivers Unified in Sacramento, Superintendent Steve Martinez tried to persuade staff to show up for work and for parents to send their students to school Monday. He said the district has been flooded with emails and phone calls from parents who oppose the vaccine mandate.

“While people have every right to speak up, declare concerns and protest the Governor’s actions, I respectfully urge parents to do so without disrupting our students’ learning,” he wrote in a message to staff and parents Friday. “A missed school day is a lost opportunity for students to learn.”

The district hadn’t tallied its attendance numbers for the day by late Monday afternoon. 

Oak Run Elementary School in Shasta County canceled school on Monday so parents, students and school employees could protest the mandate.

“Parents, educators and students across the U.S. will engage in peaceful noncompliance activities to remind government officials that individuals should have the final say when it comes to their health,” read a Facebook message from Tiffany Fulkerson, chief business officer for the single-school elementary school district.

The Covid vaccine joins 10 other vaccines, such as mumps, polio and tetanus, that the state requires children to receive before starting school. The requirement still leaves open the possibility for families to opt out for medical, religious or personal reasons. 

Students who opt out of the Covid vaccine will not be allowed to attend school in person, but they can enroll in independent study.

Many of the parents don’t think the vaccine has been vetted enough to give it to children, said Richard DuVarney, Tehama County superintendent of schools. About 40 percent of the county’s students did not attend school Monday, according to DuVarney.

DuVarney said schools in his county are experiencing staffing shortages and won’t be able to meet the demand for independent study if more parents enroll their children. 

“Last week we had 102 education staff positions open in Tehama County that we weren’t able to fill,” he said.

Gunderson said the Lassen County schools also don’t offer many long-term independent study classes because of teacher shortages.

DuVarney isn’t sure how the one-day strike will affect school finances, which rely on funding based on student attendance. He said there will be a financial impact if the families who have told him they will home-school their children when the vaccine mandate kicks in follow through with that plan. 

“I think there will be a financial impact that isn’t as significant as these kids not being able to go to the schools they love and being with the teachers they love,” he said.

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  1. Mike S. 1 month ago1 month ago

    Thank you to the south Orange County parents who kept their students home and called in with the reason to school attendance offices as “protest.” This is the only way districts will recognize the true discontent amongst families and it did not harm anyone.

  2. Cathy 1 month ago1 month ago

    The completely dishonest headline “Students, staff at mostly rural districts” is exposed in the article that clearly states the locations of protests including Sacramento, Huntington Beach, and San Diego. #FactsMatter

    Replies

    • Pat 1 month ago1 month ago

      I think it's accurate because there were protests in the SoCal cities you named, but attendance at schools dropped only ~1.5% in San Diego, and less than 10% in Huntington Beach. LA 2%. Ventura similar... In the rural areas the attendance dropped about 30%! So that's a Very big difference. In most of CA, the majority of parents want their children vaccinated against Covid-19. Not just for their children, who are less likely to … Read More

      I think it’s accurate because there were protests in the SoCal cities you named, but attendance at schools dropped only ~1.5% in San Diego, and less than 10% in Huntington Beach. LA 2%. Ventura similar… In the rural areas the attendance dropped about 30%! So that’s a Very big difference.

      In most of CA, the majority of parents want their children vaccinated against Covid-19. Not just for their children, who are less likely to suffer severe Covid-19 symptoms (although over 500 American kids have died so far!) but for the sake of the greater community, especially the physically vulnerable like our elders and the sick.

  3. Kristy 1 month ago1 month ago

    Good! Finally glad to see the silent majority standing up and making their voices heard. “Follow the science….” But the science is showing fully vaccinated individuals dying from Covid complications. It’s showing fully vaccinated individuals getting and spreading covid. I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but I am anti-mandate. Where is our choice? Our medical freedom? Go mama bears! Hold the line!!!

  4. Adeline Madrigal 1 month ago1 month ago

    My grandchild is in independent study not by choice but by necessity. I do not want to risk having my grandchildren get the virus from an unvaccinated child, teacher, parent, staff member or auxiliary personnel who is not vaccinated and have her get severely ill or die! No one knows or can guarantee how one's body will react to the virus or can without a doubt guarantee me that a child … Read More

    My grandchild is in independent study not by choice but by necessity. I do not want to risk having my grandchildren get the virus from an unvaccinated child, teacher, parent, staff member or auxiliary personnel who is not vaccinated and have her get severely ill or die! No one knows or can guarantee how one’s body will react to the virus or can without a doubt guarantee me that a child will not die from it. Nor can anyone guarantee that the virus will not be taken home and infect family members at home that are immune compromised. I have known individuals that did not believe that the virus was real until it took the life of a loved one. This is a public health issue and it should be mandated like other vaccines that are required in order to enter school in order to protect others, anything less is unacceptable and dangerous. This virus is nothing to play with. It is not a joke!

  5. Jay 1 month ago1 month ago

    The science is not clear; the Covid vaccine does not prevent Covid and there are side effects. Just like Advil minimizes the symptoms and severity of a headache the Covid vaccine minimizes the symptoms and severity of Covid. We must give this vaccine time, years not months, and in the meantime encourage families to vaccinate instead of forcing them to experiment on their children. Additionally, all staff and students should be tested whether they are … Read More

    The science is not clear; the Covid vaccine does not prevent Covid and there are side effects. Just like Advil minimizes the symptoms and severity of a headache the Covid vaccine minimizes the symptoms and severity of Covid. We must give this vaccine time, years not months, and in the meantime encourage families to vaccinate instead of forcing them to experiment on their children. Additionally, all staff and students should be tested whether they are vaccinated or not. This will provide an additional set of data we currently do not have. If the results show the Covid vaccine is safe, then mandate it in a few years.

    Replies

    • Patrice Curedale 1 month ago1 month ago

      Vaccines prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, as well as being highly effective at preventing symptoms and death. However, since there are still so many vaccine resistant people in our country, and vaccinated immunocompromised people and a small percentage of others may still be infected (unvaccinated people are at least 7 times more likely to be infected) I agree that regular testing is still needed to contain the spread. My son's public high school tests … Read More

      Vaccines prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, as well as being highly effective at preventing symptoms and death. However, since there are still so many vaccine resistant people in our country, and vaccinated immunocompromised people and a small percentage of others may still be infected (unvaccinated people are at least 7 times more likely to be infected) I agree that regular testing is still needed to contain the spread. My son’s public high school tests all students and staff once a week. I would like to see our local, state and federal governments do more testing.

      The funding for universal free testing is in the Build Back Better bill, but since the entire GOP block of the Senate, and Manchin, still refuse to pass it, the big funding needs will continue to be delayed. The $3.5 trillion over 10 yrs needed for BBB is only 1% of our annual budget. We spend twice that much on the military in One Year. The delay is unconscionable. Contact your local and state officials to demand testing.

  6. Kristin Ippolito 1 month ago1 month ago

    Ridiculous. Should we stop vaccinating for polio and pertussis now too? The science is clear. Vaccinate now for Covid. You don’t like it then home school. Enough is enough!