California vaccine mandate protest
© Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG
LAUSD parents and students rallied against student COVID-19 vaccine mandates at the corner of Victory Blvd and Balboa Blvd. in Lake Balboa on Monday, October 18, 2021, in conjunction with a statewide Schools Walkout campaign.
Thousands of California parents and teachers who oppose school vaccine mandates took part in a statewide walkout Monday.

SkyFOX was over a crowd of several dozen protesters carrying signs outside Birmingham High School in Van Nuys.

A group of over a dozen parents gathered outside Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood calling for school board members to resign and an end to vaccine mandates.

Southern California parents make their voices heard

"I'm here protesting the mandate because we don't believe that we should take it religiously, ethically or morally. We shouldn't be forced to take something without all the data," said Los Angeles Unified School District employee Hovik Saponghian.

News about the planned protest has spread on social media, with organizers suggesting that parents pull their children out of school and that teachers and staff who support the protest stay home.

"As a parent, I think I have the right with other parents to stand up for our children. We want our children and our teachers to have a choice," said LAUSD Parent Rima Mkhitran, who decided to keep her daughter home.

Russell and Alayna Nord participated in a protest in San Dimas. Their two children, ages 8 and 10 years old, are part of the Bonita Unified School District.

"It's a really concernable item. For us personally, we're not anti-vax people. We don't particularly like this vaccine and it's because of the mandating and the short history of the trial. We don't really know much about it. We've always done our vaccinations. We've always been able to do it at our own pace, doctor's recommendations," said Russell Nord.

California became the first state to mandate vaccinations or coronavirus testing for eligible children to attend in-person classes at public and private schools after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the requirement Oct. 1. Students who don't comply will be required to do an independent study. There are medical and personal belief exemptions.

"I don't want to get the vaccine for my child because they are too young. There are no studies showing the long-term effects. We should wait for a couple of years," said LAUSD parent Nara Vardaresyan.

The mandate currently affects students in grades 7-12. Those age 12 and older are eligible for the vaccine.

"I have a middle school daughter who I do not want to get vaccinated. I don't feel safe. I feel like we should have the right as parents to decide what's best for our children," said LAUSD parent Paola Slaares.

Vaccine mandate: School walkout planned for Oct. 18

California parents and teachers made their voices heard during a walkout against school vaccine mandates.

No estimate of the size of the statewide walkout was reported but word had spread across the state from Northern to Southern California.

"I prefer my kids to have the vaccine. It's another layer of protection. So far, he's doing much better in school and I don't want him to miss out," said LAUSD parent Maria Soto as she dropped her child off at Saticoy Elementary School.

Russell said once the vaccine is FDA approved for the younger age group, and not authorized under emergency use, his opinion could eventually change.

"The FDA approval, it may sway my opinion after seeing it in play in four to five year. That may be something we consider," he said.

Alayna agreed and said it comes down to parental choice for her.

"At the end of the day, we just strongly believe that it is the parent's right to have the choice on what goes in our kids' bodies, and on that matter our adult bodies too. It's been like watching a crazy horror flick on TV every single day, watching everybody tear themselves apart and pit one against the other. At the end of the day, I hope this is something that can unite us. It is our kids. It's not a political stance," said Alayna.

There are many parents who support the mandate too.

"I prefer my kid to have the vaccine. I think it's a [form of] protection. My son is doing much better now that he's back to school," said Maria Soto, an LAUSD parent.