GRANADA HILLS, Calif. -
A group of parents and students at Granada Hills Charter High School rallied outside the campus Tuesday in opposition to a policy that will bar students who aren't vaccinated against COVID-19 from participating in graduation ceremonies.
The Los Angeles Unified School District recently delayed implementation of its student COVID vaccination mandate until July 1, 2023, but Granada Hills Charter maintained its requirement.
In a statement, the school noted that 99% students eligible for the shots have been vaccinated. The school insisted the policy is in the "best interests" of students.
"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," according to the school. "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."
According to the protesting parents, the school's policy will prevent 70 unvaccinated high school seniors from attending graduation ceremonies, including eight special-needs students.
"What Granada Hills charter high school has done to its graduating seniors is egregious and unconstitutional by both state and federal standards," Parisa Fishback, cofounder of a group called Moms on the Ground, said in a statement ahead of the rally. "We will hold them accountable in every way possible. For now, we march for the kids that they will not allow to walk."
Granada Hills has released the following statement to FOX 11:
"A key driver of our success as one of California's highest performing public schools is that we are an independent self-governed charter school empowered to make our own policy decisions that are right for our community. Our student vaccination policy reflects GHC's long history of making decisions that are in the best interests of our students, all of whom attend voluntarily, as GHC is a school of choice.
Our community asked for and has overwhelmingly supported our student vaccine policy, as demonstrated by our 99% vaccination rate amongst those who are eligible to be vaccinated. Our Board stands by the science concerning vaccinations, and at GHC we are committed to doing all we can to protect our students, staff, and their families. 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.
We respect peaceful demonstrations around differences of opinion – it is a pillar of our democracy, based on our core freedoms, and one of the many important civic lessons we teach our students as we educate them to be productive citizens of our community and country. We also value choice as a bedrock principle of our democracy. In California, students and families are able to exercise that choice in attending an independent charter school like GHC. And as an independent charter school, GHC is able to establish clear and consistent safety measures to keep its students and staff safe.
GHC’s policy on COVID has not changed since the Fall of 2021. Students and their families have known since that time that it is their choice whether to become vaccinated. They also have known since that time that their choice would determine their eligibility to participate in on and off-campus activities, including our graduation and culmination activities with more than 6,000 and 2,000 guests and students, respectively, expected to be in attendance at this year’s ceremonies. Of our 1,100 graduating seniors and 140 eighth grade students, the 70 graduating seniors and 15 eighth grade students who are not on site may participate in GHC's graduation and culmination ceremonies remotely, hear their names called, have their achievements recognized, and graduate or matriculate. We welcome their participation and look forward to recognizing their accomplishments."