Head Start programs across the United States provide education and other services to approximately 850,000 children living at or below the poverty line.
In November 2021, President Biden announced five federal vaccine mandates, including one for Head Start teachers and the one million Head Start volunteers who interact with students. This mandate not only requires Head Start teachers and volunteers to receive COVID vaccinations and wear masks; it also requires all children over age two to be masked—even if no other children at their schools have to wear masks. Staff may seek religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate, but then have to submit to a weekly testing.
The Biden Administration had no authority to impose this mandate. Federal law allows the Department of Health and Human Services to impose certain rules on Head Start programs—but it doesn’t authorize forcing staff to take vaccines or kids to wear masks.
This mandate has harmed not only staff and children, but also schools, which are losing teachers and volunteers who aren’t willing to comply.
That’s why a group of Michigan school districts filed a lawsuit challenging the mandate in January 2022. Now two of those districts, Livingston Educational Services Agency and Wayne-Westland Community Schools are continuing their legal fight against the Biden administration at the United States Court of Appeals, with free representation from the Liberty Justice Center.
In September 2022, Liberty Justice Center attorneys secured an order blocking the Head Start mandate in 24 states. But the mandate continues to be enforced in the remaining 26 states, including Michigan.