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Residents protest school vaccination mandate outside RUSD board meeting

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new state mandate earlier this month to require the COVID-19 vaccine for all students attending in-person learning.

A picture of a Stand Up Riverside rally outside the RUSD school board meeting.
Stand Up Riverside protests new state vaccine requirement ahead of a RUSD school board meeting.
Jonathan Linden
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Over 100 parents and children gathered outside the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) Board Meeting on Oct. 21 in protest of California’s school vaccination requirement announced earlier this month.

The gathering was co-organized by Stand Up Riverside and Heather Knapp, who organizes @Nurses4Freedom. Amanda Harris, a leader with Stand Up Riverside, said the organization is not against vaccines.

“We’re not anti-vaccine, we’re not pro-vaccine, we are just pro-choice and medical freedom and we are against mandates, that goes with anything,” Harris said.

The protest, similar to those that have popped up around the state, was fueled after Gov. Gavin Newsom stated on Oct. 1 that full vaccination, which now includes the COVID-19 vaccine, would be required for students to attend in-person instruction.

The rally began an hour and a half before the board meeting was conducted and had over five speakers, including Riverside County Republican Party Chair Don Dix. Other rally participants appeared to oppose the COVID-19 vaccination entirely, including Knapp, who is a registered nurse.

“I am a mother of four, and I am sick and tired of feeling like my God-given role to my kids is being trampled on. I do not co-parent with the government,” Knapp, who has over 60,000 followers on Instagram, said.

During the public comment at the board meeting Knapp addressed all the board members. She said the government has continued to push “unscientific mandates and not laws” on its citizens.

Knapp also spoke of pediatric deaths and said there have only been approximately 630 covid pediatric deaths. According to the latest CDC data, there have been 780 deaths for children aged 0 to 4, and an additional 1,768 deaths for children aged 5 to 18.

“The amount of covid deaths in the population is comparable to the flu and we do not mandate the flu shot on children,” Knapp added.

In response to requests to defy the state requirement, Tom Hunt, President of the RUSD Board of Education, said the ultimate power is in the hands of the California State Department of Health and the governor.

“School districts essentially, if they do push back…will become immediately liable for any financial damages,” Hunt said.

The new vaccination requirement will go into effect upon full FDA approval of the vaccine for children in the K-6 and 7-12 grades.