UPDATED 8:09 AM PT – Friday, May 13, 2022
The California Senate passed SB866, a bill that would remove parental consent for teens to get vaccinated. The bill now heads to the State Assembly. One Americas Stella Escobedo caught up with Sharon McKeeman of Let Them Breathe who said the bill is radical.
Stella Escobedo: In states like California, there’s still a big push to vaccinate everyone. Just today, California’s Senate… they passed a bill – 866, Senate Bill 866, It passed in the Senate. The bill would allow teens to get vaccinated without their parent’s consent. Now, the bill is now headed to the assembly and then possibly the governor’s desk. I want to bring in a mother who’s been fighting for children’s rights in the state of California, Sharon McKeeman, founder of Let Them Breathe. Sharon, welcome.
Sharon McKeeman: Thanks so much. It’s great to see you.
Stella Escobedo: Thanks for being here, Sharon. So, a 12-year-old will potentially be able to make a big decision without their parent’s consent. A few people in Sacramento, they get to tell us parents, they get to tell the parents how to parent their children, essentially.
Sharon McKeeman: Yes. This bill is so extreme. And I think there are a lot of parents in shock right now that it has actually passed the Senate floor. It just has that final hurdle of passing the assembly, before then, it could be signed into law by the governor. And so far, what we’ve seen is that, unfortunately, I don’t think Governor Newsom would have any problem signing an extreme bill like this into law.
And if this were to pass, I think that there’s going to be a mass exodus from the public school system, because what we’re seeing is families that are incredibly concerned and outraged that this responsibility would be put on their children’s shoulders, this decision making, instead of staying within the family unit. Especially during a time there’s been so much disinformation, so much uncertainty. We’re finding out the vaccine is far less effective than it was said to be.
There’s concerns over side effects. And what I’ve seen personally as the founder of Let Them Breathe is parents contacting me and sharing about how their kids have been shamed, bribed, pressured both by staff and students within their school. And if this bill passes, which it’s very close to passing at this point and being signed into law, then a child could literally go to school one morning with no plans to get the shot, have peer pressure or a teacher possibly push it on them, walk into the vaccine clinics that are already on school campuses and get this vaccine – not only without parental consent, but without any parental notice. Parents could literally not even know that their child would be receiving this very new vaccine that does not have long term studies. And so, I think there’s a lot of parents right now that are contemplating, I hope that the amazing families don’t leave the state of California, but contemplating leaving the public school system if this passes.
And that’s why Let Them Breathe has it let them learn initiative. We have been working so hard to hold the line for a kid’s right to publicly funded education and to turn this ship around, to stop the ship from sinking that is the public school system right now. I think, right now, we’re also focused on building as many lifeboats as possible, making those connections to alternative education options so that there can be a hedge of protection around these kids, because this responsibility should not be on their shoulders to make these types of decisions. Especially in such a divisive and uncertain time.
Stella Escobedo: You know, Sharon, you brought up a point about kids being bullied. I’ve been hearing those stories, too. You know, you hear a 12-year-old, a 13-year-old they want their friends. They don’t want to be bullied. So, they just go make the decision and get the vaccine. What should families be doing now?
Sharon McKeeman: Well, obviously, speaking with their children. They’ve been reaching out to Let Them Breathe. We have been offering support, helping them connect. For instance, there’s a credentialed academic counselor who lost her job over the mask mandate. We’ve been helping families connect with her. We’re holding Smiles sessions with her in our learning center. But really, it’s got to go beyond that. There’s got to be this hedge of protection around students where if this bill were to pass, they’re not on a campus where there’s a vaccine clinic and they have the right to consent because we have had families reach out, send us audio, video, written stories about how kids are… they’re getting shamed for not having the vaccine. They’re being bribed.
And it’s really, unfortunately, become that next level of peer pressure where I think a lot of kids don’t even know why. It’s just the thing to either be mean to kids because they don’t wear a mask or they haven’t had the vaccine, or to just say “Let’s all do it together.” And again, a 12-year-old, a 13, 14, 15-year-old, their brains are still developing. There’s a reason why they’re not driving cars, why they’re not going to medical appointments by themselves because as a family, we’re supposed to make those decisions together. And as a parent, I’m responsible for what’s best for my children, not the government.
Stella Escobedo: You wonder why these lawmakers continue to push this. I mean, we’ve been living with it for four years now. Despite this, it appears commonsense is kind of prevailing at LAUSD, Sharon. Almost a month after the state of California delayed the COVID vaccine mandates in schools until 2023, LAUSD says they’re going to do the same, so they’re finally aligning.
Now it appears their new superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, is the one who’s making the difference. And before we talk about LAUSD in detail, I want you to take a look at this picture. I want our viewers to look at this. This is from last week. And in fact, Carvalho tweeted this. He’s sitting alongside CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who was visiting L.A., also the controversial Barbara Ferrer. She’s the L.A. County public health director who loves masking people. She wants to mask everybody in L.A. They’re all wearing masks. Look at that. But Carvalho, he’s not. This picture says a lot.
Sharon McKeeman: It does, and you know what? If we can see the superintendent smile and if UTLA, the L.A. Teachers Union, is not very happy with him, then I will say he’s got to be doing quite a bit right. Obviously, there is a lot of ground that needs to be made up for these Los Angeles students and Let Them Breathe has been involved not only in advocacy, but in litigation on their behalf.
And this is really a victory for parent advocacy, because I truly believe the reason there is a new Superintendent, the reason these delays on the vaccine mandate are happening, is because parents have advocated. Groups like ours have filed litigation, and they’re hearing from the people and they’re feeling the legal pressure, and that is moving the needle in the right direction to make sure that kids have – they have a right to education, but to make sure that’s upheld.
Unfortunately, there are two charter schools that are publicly funded and within the L.A. Unified School System that are doubling down on their vaccine mandate. We have litigation pending against them. And then we have the second largest school district in the state, San Diego Unified. We already beat their vaccine mandate in court, but they’re wasting taxpayer dollars to appeal our decision.
And, you know, L.A. Unified is oftentimes quite extreme. But now that there’s some common sense and some leadership moving in the right direction there, I think it really highlights those schools that are doing the wrong things for students. They’re really becoming the outlier. And I love that the Superintendent said that the decision to delay was perfectly endorsed by science, because that means that any school that is moving forward or already is excluding students because of a vaccine mandate, they are not following the silent science.
They do not have that excuse anymore. And we’re seeing private schools in Los Angeles, you know, mandating even for 5-year-olds and up. It’s just, it is nowhere close to being justifiable scientifically.
Stella Escobedo: While L.A. USD appears to be moving in the right direction, Sharon, there’s a new mask mandate, though, that applies to public and private schools in their district. The rule is if there’s one positive COVID case and all kids who shared indoor space, they have to mask up for ten days. What’s crazy about this – so a brother and sister go to the same school, one wears a mask, the other doesn’t, but they actually share a home.
Sharon McKeeman: Exactly. I will say there’s a move in the right direction towards common sense. But like I said, there’s also still a lot that needs to be done. And one of those things is making sure that every child has that right to smile and that we don’t get caught in any more of this political theater. Because you know what you just shared about the masking, that’s happening also at these same schools that we’re in litigation against.
And then there’s private schools that parents are paying $40,000 a year at the Willows and Merriman private schools and their kids are only receiving 15 minutes of online education because they’re unvaccinated. And at the same time, you have students writing to those schools with students from other schools that are unvaccinated. So, it’s the same thing you’re bringing up if like, okay, they’re making an entire classroom mask, but those kids, you know, are in families with other kiddos that aren’t masking. We’ve got vaccine mandates, but they’re riding the bus with other schools that are unvaccinated. It’s abusive. It doesn’t make any sense. And it’s not the right thing for our kids. Our kids need to be able to get back to education so they can be prepared because they are our future.
Stella Escobedo: Yeah. We already know that the lockdowns affected our children on a massive level, so we need to get back to normal. We’ve been living with it for many years. We’re going on three years now, so it’s time to get back to normal. Sharon, as always, thank you for fighting for the children of California.
Sharon McKeeman: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.