LOS ANGELES—A group of parents and students gathered outside of Granada Hills Charter High School to protest the school’s decision to ban students who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 from participating in upcoming graduation events.
Protestors held signs that read “Our Kids, Our Choice” and “Don’t Discriminate, Let Our Kids Graduate” at the May 31 protest, organized by Granada Hills Charter parents’ group GHC Parents United and Moms on the Ground, a parent choice advocacy group.
“What Granada Hills Charter High School has done to its graduating seniors is egregious and unconstitutional by both state and federal standards,” said Moms on the Ground cofounder Parisa Fishback in a statement. “We will hold them accountable in every way possible. For now, we march for the kids that they will not allow to walk.”
Although the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) decided earlier this month to align with the state and delay its COVID-19 vaccine mandate until July 2023, Granada Hills High School—an independent charter school in San Fernando Valley with its own governing board independent from LAUSD’s—opted to keep its mandate for students.
About 1,100 graduating students will receive their diplomas onstage—but 70 unvaccinated seniors, including eight special needs students, will have to watch the event’s livestream remotely.
In a statement, the school said it stands by its decision, and said that 99 percent of students over 12 have been vaccinated.
“Our board stands by the science that indicates that vaccination is the most effective and best tool available to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safest learning environment possible,” the school said in the statement. “Our commitment to safety is ever more important as COVID-19 cases are spiking again, and the prospect of outbreaks and new variants is significant.”
The school’s senior awards event will take place May 31 at 6 p.m., while graduation is on June 2 at 7 p.m. All attendees are required to show proof of vaccination, and both events will be livestreamed, according to the school’s website.
Meanwhile, GHC Parents United began a fundraising campaign webpage to throw unvaccinated students their own graduation party.
“No matter what happens on June 2—if our children are allowed to join their friends and walk that stage or not—we will be throwing these kids the best graduation party we can,” the parents’ group said on the webpage. “The [Granada Hills Charter] mascot is the Highlander. To quote William Wallace, the most famous Highlander, of Braveheart fame: ‘It’s all for nothing if you don’t have freedom.’”
A petition on Change.org urging Granada Hills Charter to allow unvaccinated students to walk in their graduation ceremony also received nearly 5,000 signatures, as of Tuesday afternoon.