Federal Judge Blocks New York City’s School COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

September 25, 2021 Updated: September 26, 2021

New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for teachers and other Department of Education staffers is on pause after a federal judge late on Sept. 24 granted a request to temporarily block it.

Plaintiffs, a group of teachers, asked for a temporary injunction, pending review by a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

U.S. Appeals Court Judge Joseph Bianco, a George W. Bush nominee, granted the request in a one-page order.

The panel will now decide whether to impose an injunction pending appeal or allow the mandate to take effect.

Rachel Maniscalco and three other New York City Department of Education workers sued over the mandate, which was supposed to start on Sept. 27.

They said the order, which requires all workers to show proof that they’ve received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, is government overreach, violating the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process Clause. That clause states in part that no state can “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

The right to pursue a profession is a liberty interest, and the mandate, which threatens to cost workers their jobs if they don’t comply, interferes with it, the suit said.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan, another George W. Bush nominee, last week declined to block the mandate, ruling that plaintiffs failed to show they would likely succeed in their suit. That prompted an appeal and led to Bianco’s ruling.

It’s not clear when the three-judge panel will make its decision.

In a statement to news outlets, the city’s Department of Education (DOE) said it was confident the mandate will ultimately be upheld “once all the facts have been presented, because that is the level of protection our students and staff deserve.”

“Our current vax-or-test mandate remains in effect and we’re seeking speedy resolution by the Circuit Court next week. Over 82 percent of DOE employees have been vaccinated and we continue to urge all employees to get their shot by Sept. 27,” the agency said.

Unions have urged the city to delay or restructure the mandate, saying it would lead to teacher shortages.

Some schools have dozens of unvaccinated staffers, Mark Cannizzaro, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, a union representing principals in the city, told reporters earlier on Sept. 24.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has shown no signs of backing down.

“We’ve been planning all along. We have a lot of substitutes ready, but I think the big story here is going to be that the vast majority, overwhelming majority of teachers and staff are going to come in vaccinated to serve our kids next week,” he said on a radio show Sept. 24.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.