AURORA | Aurora Public Schools is taking steps to fire two teachers for not complying with the district’s vaccine mandate.
In May, the district announced that it would require all employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine or receive a valid exemption once at least one of the vaccines had received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
In August, the FDA formally approved the Pfizer vaccine, and the district gave employees until Oct. 7 to provide proof of vaccination. Employees were permitted to request an exemption for disability, religious reasons or medical reasons. Employees whose requests were approved met with district staff to come up with accommodations, such as social distancing or regular COVID-19 testing.
By the deadline, 88.8% of the district’s 5,000-plus employees were vaccinated and 3.2% had received an approved exemption. The majority of the remainder were temporary employees, according to the district.
Staff who had not met the vaccination or exemption requirement were given until Nov. 22 to catch up, district spokesperson Corey Christiansen previously told The Sentinel. If they failed to meet that deadline, the district would begin the process of terminating their employment.
At the district’s board of education meeting Tuesday night, the board heard two recommendations from the district to dismiss teachers “due to insubordination, neglect of duty and just cause.”
According to meeting documents, the cause was that the employees were not vaccinated and did not have a valid exemption.
“One of the individuals recommended for dismissal did request an exemption, citing a violation of privacy rights under the The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA),” meeting documents said. “However, multiple federal agencies have established and issued guidance that employers requesting the COVID-19 vaccination status of their employees is not a violation of HIPAA Privacy Rule.”
This was a preliminary step in the process, and the board did not take any other action at the meeting except for acknowledging the recommendations.
The employees in question are a Spanish teacher at Hinkley High School and a math teacher at Vista PEAK Preparatory.
At press time, inquiries from The Sentinel sent to the employee’s district email accounts had not received responses, as well as a request for comment from the district’s teacher union.