Bloomberg Law
Oct. 1, 2021, 10:05 PM

Justice Sotomayor Lets NYC Schools Enforce Vaccine Mandate (1)

Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson
Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor let New York City start enforcing its requirement that school employees be vaccinated against Covid-19 or lose their jobs, rejecting a bid by four teachers and staff members who sought to block the mandate.

Sotomayor, who is assigned to consider emergency requests out of the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, made no comment in turning down the emergency request. The city can now enforce the requirement, which was scheduled to take effect Friday, for its 148,000 teachers and staff.

The challengers told the court the mandate will cause thousands of unvaccinated public school employees to lose their jobs. One of their lawyers, Mark J. Fonte, said in an emailed statement the group was “extremely disappointed” with the decision.

“Our children are the ones who will suffer the most,” Fonte said. “The teachers that our kids are so fond of will no longer be in the classroom. The safety of our children will be compromised with the absence of school safety officers.”

Sotomayor’s rejection leaves open the possibility the challengers could refile the request with another justice. Fonte didn’t immediately respond when asked whether they would take that step.

The court has given state and local governments leeway to adopt Covid-19 measures, except when they affect religious worship. In August, Justice Amy Coney Barrett turned away a challenge to Indiana University’s requirement that all students be vaccinated unless they have a religious or medical exemption.

Those challenging the vaccine mandate tried to show that the city treated school staff more harshly than other municipal workers. Unlike the latter group, school workers can’t opt out of the mandate by agreeing to weekly testing. The school mandate allows exemptions for medical and religious reasons.

The case is Maniscalco v. New York City Dept. of Education, No. 21A50.

(Updates with reaction from lawyer in fourth paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story:
Kimberly Robinson in Arlington at;
Greg Stohr in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Elizabeth Wasserman at

Seth Stern, Jon Morgan

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