U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has refused an emergency request by a group of teachers challenging the New York City school system’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
Sotomayor late Friday acted as circuit justice covering the federal 2nd Circuit, which includes New York state, without asking the New York City Department of Education to file a response and without referring the matter to the full court. She issued no comment on the denial.
Four teachers representing a class of other educators and school staff challenged the school system’s mandate, part of a July 26 order by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for most municipal employees that initially included the option to get regular testing for the coronavirus instead of a vaccine. In August, De Blasio eliminated the testing option for school employees but not other city workers, though a separate arbitration proceeding allowed for medical and religious exemptions.
The group of teachers argued that the mandate violates their equal protection and due process rights under the 14th Amendment. On Sept. 23, a federal district judge in New York City rejected their request for an injunction to block the mandate. The judge cited Jacobson v. Massachusetts, a 1905 Supreme Court decision that upheld a state law giving municipalities the power to adopt financial penalties for adults who refused to be vaccinated against smallpox.
“Mandating a vaccine approved by the [Food and Drug Administration] does not” qualify as a “plain, palpable invasion” of the teachers’ fundamental rights, the judge said.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, in New York City, denied the teachers’ appeal in a one-page order on Sept. 27.
In their emergency request to Sotomayor in Maniscalco v. New York City Department of Education (No. 21A50), the teachers say the vaccine mandate will force them out of work and leave the school system with a major staffing shortage.
“This court should grant the injunction after nearly two years of lockdowns, to prevent the largest public-school system in the country from further disrupting the education of hundreds of thousands of students who desperately need in-person teachers,” the filing said.
Under the mandate, the city’s 148,000 school employees had until 5 p.m. on Oct. 1 to get their first vaccine shot or else face suspension without pay on Oct. 4.
The case is the second time recently that a Supreme Court justice has refused an emergency request to block a vaccine mandate in education. On Aug. 12, Justice Amy Coney Barrett denied a request to block Indiana University’s vaccine mandate.