NY State orders end to mandatory Covid-19 testing in schools. Teachers union threatens fight.
The New York State Education Department issued a letter earlier today informing all public schools in the State that parental consent to Covid-19 tests for their children is not required for in-person instruction, or participation in any school activities, including extracurricular activities. The letter only applies to public and charter schools.
The letter follows in the wake of a lawsuit challenging the closing of New York City Schools and mandatory testing for students filed on December 16, 2020 by eight New York City parents and Children’s Health Defense against the New York City Department of Education and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The parents are represented by Attorneys James Mermigis, Ray L. Flores II and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
The letter from Kathleen R. Cataldo, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Student Support Services said, “The Department has received reports from the field that some school districts are requiring parents’ consent on behalf of their children, to Covid-19 testing as a condition of activities including in-person learning and extracurricular activities. The Department hereby clarifies that parent/guardian consent for Covid 19 resting of students may not be a condition of in-person learning or other school activities.” (Underlining from the original.)
Since Nov. 19, children in grades 6-12 have been completely excluded from all in-school education. NYC has provided no specific date by which these students will be back in school. Since early December, K-5 and special needs students may attend “blended learning,” usually just 1-2 days per week, but only if they submit to in-school polymerase chain reaction (PCR) genetic testing for COVID-19. If parents refuse, the DOE relegates their kids to remote learning for at least the next 10 months.
NYC schools were open to all students for blended learning September through mid-November, even though all families had the option of remote learning. Mayor de Blasio shut schools down again because of a rise in the city-wide PCR positivity rate. As plaintiffs’ experts declare, PCR testing does not diagnose COVID infection, even though NYC has represented to parents that it does. PCR testing generates many false positive results, leading to disruptive and expensive isolation and quarantine.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that in-school testing without voluntary consent is “unethical and illegal.” Coercing parents to sign consent forms on threat of exclusion is not voluntary. DOE is acting in flagrant disregard of federal public health guidance.
Remote learning disproportionately harms those who can’t afford access to modern technology, including high-speed internet, computers, tablets, printers, scanners and more. Most students in NYC are Black and Hispanic; many parents are wary to submit their kids to medical procedures without their oversight. They wonder what really happens with their children’s test results and DNA samples.
The United Federations of Teachers (UFT), the NYC teachers union, issued a statement that the state’s letter contradicts a plan agreed to by the schools and the union. “We will fight to make sure these protocols stay in place” according to a statement on the UFT Facebook page.
The lawsuit will continue until the school closure issue is resolved.
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