A federal district court in Louisiana ruled Thursday that the government cannot require teachers and staff within the Head Start early education program to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Judge Terry A. Doughty also ruled that adults and students cannot be required to wear masks — a win for the Liberty Justice Center and the Pelican Institute for Public Policy which filed the lawsuit in 2021 on behalf of local teacher Sandy Brick.
"The public interest is served by maintaining the constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals who do not want to take the COVID-19 vaccine," the judge wrote. "This interest outweighs Agency Defendants' interests. The public has a liberty interest in not being required to take a vaccine or be fired from their jobs.
"Although vaccines arguably serve the public interest, the liberty interests of individuals mandated to take the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any interest generated by the mandatory administration of vaccines," he added.
Doughty had previously granted a temporary stay blocking the vaccine and mask mandates in January. At the time, 24 state attorneys general had joined the suit.
The ruling revolved around the government's Head Start Services, a program launched in 1965 to provide supplemental education for children under six in low-income families.
"Although President Biden recently declared that the 'pandemic is over,' the fight to restore Americans' individual liberties is not," Liberty Justice Center lawyer Daniel Suhr said in a press release. "We will continue to fight for teachers like Sandy and the low-income students they serve until every illegal and unjustified mandate is wiped from the books."
Now, the federal government will decide whether to appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the same body that struck down the Biden administration's vaccine mandate for private businesses earlier this year.
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