Teachers in Head Start programs give children from low-income families across the United States the nurturing, safe environment they need to learn and be prepared for kindergarten. The services they offer go well beyond the typical preschool, providing nutrition, social skills and other support for growing kids.
Head Start teachers like Sandy Brick of Louisiana and Jessica Trenn of Ohio have taught kids through ever-changing COVID-19 mitigation measures. They have continued to serve their communities and students despite uncertainty. But now, they and 280,000 Americans employed by Head Start agencies find themselves the subject of new federal vaccine and mask mandates.
On September 9, 2021, President Biden unveiled a comprehensive plan to vaccinate as many Americans as possible against COVID-19. Included as part of that plan were five federal vaccine mandates. President Biden proclaimed that he was fed up with the decisions of some Americans to not get vaccinated and he looked to agency emergency rulemaking and executive orders to force as many people as possible to vaccinate.
Head Start agencies (local, largely nonprofit, or governmental providers who receive federal funding to provide Head Start services) received their mandate on Nov. 30, 2021, when the Office of Head Start under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published an “interim final rule” requiring all staff, contractors and volunteers to receive a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Jan. 31, 2022. It also places a universal mask mandate on all adults and children.
Sandy and Jessica work in programs that did not have vaccine and mask mandates prior to the federal government’s new directive, but now they face losing their jobs for declining to get the COVID-19 vaccine. However, with the help from attorneys at the Liberty Justice Center and the Louisiana-based Pelican Institute for Public Policy, they filed a federal lawsuit against President Joe Biden and federal officials to challenge the government’s gross intrusion and overreach. They believe the mandate is illegal because it does not follow the lawful ruling process, it exceeds the authority given to HHS by Congress and it violates the U.S. Constitution.