Bill package seeks to ensure equal access to education for Michigan students, regardless of COVID vaccination status

LANSING, Mich. — State Sens. Lana Theis, Tom Barrett and Kim LaSata on Tuesday introduced a package of bills to help ensure equal access to education for all vaccinated and unvaccinated students as Michigan moves beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

“After a year of the state asserting control over much of our lives, it is imperative that we continue to protect the rights of Michigan parents to decide what health care actions are best for their children and families,” said Theis, R-Brighton. “No government entity should be able to force an individual to get a COVID-19 vaccine, nor should these vaccines be required for a child to go to school or participate in school-related activities.”

The four-bill package would prohibit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services from requiring minors to receive a COVID-19 vaccination under emergency public health orders.

Senate Bill 600, sponsored by Theis, would prohibit schools from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of attending public school, riding a school bus, attending a school-sponsored event, or participating in school sports, band, theater or other activities. It also prohibits schools from discriminating between vaccinated and unvaccinated students. It also prohibits schools from requiring that an individual receive a vaccination in order to attend a school board meeting.

SB 601, also sponsored by Theis, would prohibit schools from requiring a facemask for students to attend school, ride the bus, participate in any activities without providing an opt-out or discriminating between students who have requested or received a waiver and those who have not. It also prohibits schools from testing asymptomatic students for them to be able to attend school, ride the bus, participate in activities such as sports or from discriminating between tested and untested students. Further, it prohibits the school from requiring someone who is asymptomatic to be tested for Covid-19 in order to attend a school board meeting.

SB 602, sponsored by Barrett, would ban DHHS from promulgating a rule that requires minors to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, wear a face mask or take a COVID-19 test when asymptomatic as a condition for a student to enter a school or participate in school-related activities.

“For over a year, certain state officials have used constantly changing orders and guidelines to exert unilateral control over the lives of Michigan residents and the education of Michigan students,” said Barrett, R-Charlotte. “We must continue to limit these overreaching measures and defend the rights of Michiganders to make their own health care decisions based on what is best for their own families. No person should have their privacy invaded or be discriminated against based on personal medical information like their own private vaccination status.”

SB 603, sponsored by LaSata, would prohibit DHHS or a local health officer from issuing an order that requires a student to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, wear a mask or take a COVID-19 test as a condition of attending or entering a school or participating in school activities. DHHS and local health officers would also be prohibited from issuing orders that require an individual to receive a Covid-19 vaccination, wear a mask or get tested in order to attend a school board meeting.

“The past year has been very challenging for our state and especially our students,” said LaSata, R-Coloma. “As Michigan reopens from the pandemic and residents are getting back to their normal lives, it is important that the right of all students to have equal access to education is protected, regardless of their COVID vaccination status or their family’s own personal decision whether to wear masks.”

The bill package was introduced the same day the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced another about-face on mask guidelines, now recommending that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 resume wearing masks while indoors. The agency also recommended everyone inside K-12 schools wear a mask, even if they are fully vaccinated.

The bills have been referred to the Committee on Education and Career Readiness.

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