A Florida private school is threatening to punish any teachers who receive a vaccination against COVID-19. The ban on COVID vaccines was announced in a letter written by Leila Centner, one of Centner Academy’s co-founders.
Centner is a known anti-vaxxer. She posts frequently to social media, lamenting vaccines and other public safety measures like face masks. In an email to educators at the private school, Centner claimed that “reports have surfaced recently of non-vaccinated people being negatively impacted by interacting with people who have been vaccinated.”
Centner leaned on a popular conspiracy theory, which claims that vaccinated people can pass the vaccine onto non-vaccinated people, to support the school’s vaccine ban. “Even among our own population, we have at least three women with menstrual cycles impacted after having spent time with a vaccinated person,” she wrote.
The school’s vaccine policy would require teachers to take one of three routes. If they’ve already been vaccinated, they must inform the school so that students can be kept distant from them. If they intend to get the vaccine before the semester is out, they also must inform the school as it “cannot allow recently vaccinated people to be near our students until more information is known.” The final option for teachers who wish to be vaccinated is to wait until the school year is over.
Teachers who choose the final route, which would require that they wait until at least mid-May to receive their first vaccine, are still not assured continued employment at the private school. If any teachers choose to get the vaccine, they will not be allowed to return to their jobs until clinical trials are completed. And that is only if “a position is still available at that time.”
Faculty and staff were required to fill out a confidential questionnaire detailing if they’d received the vaccine, and if so, which one and how many doses. In a statement, Centner’s publicist claimed that the safety of students has been the school’s top priority throughout the pandemic.
The statement, like Centner’s, leaned on false claims—like that vaccinated people “may be transmitting something from their bodies”—to make its point.
Numerous public health agencies in the United States have confirmed that the approved vaccines are safe and effective.
Experts are calling the decision by the school “irresponsible” and “terrible.”
“This is completely irresponsible,” Florida International University Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Aileen Marty said. “It is spreading rumors about something that is completely unfounded. There is absolutely no basis in fact in any of the allegations that are made against the vaccine there. It’s just frightening that such a high level of misinformation is going out from someone who runs a school. It’s terrible.”
Numerous parents have voiced outrage at the school’s decision to ban COVID vaccines among its teachers. While some have already made the decision to pull their children from classes, other parents have been forced to keep their children enrolled. Several parents told Local 10 that the school refuses to refund paid tuition. The school charges high enrollment fees, with tuition starting at $25,000 for pre-K and elementary school students.