By Bethany Shepard 3:39 am PST

As the U.S. students returned to their fall semester, under the new direction from the White House that students 12 years or older would be vaccinated, the vaccination debate has reached new heights in schools throughout the country.

Vaccine campaigners have gone all out on the internet and social media aimed towards getting students and adolescents vaccinated. Vaccines are being promoted at many schools, and some even have on-site clinics. Although other schools have chosen to be more neutral about it because they are concerned about what the parents would think. To encourage the students, some schools are giving students an incentive to be vaccinated. Those incentives have made students eager to get vaccinated, but they still need the consent of their parents. However, not all parents are happy.

Vaccination activities in Tennessee schools have been canceled by the state’s health agency because local legislators believed the Department of Health and Human Services were pressuring schools to give young people incentives to get vaccinated. Only half of 12 to 17-year-olds in Tennessee had been immunized, and many parents in that area are opposed to the vaccine. Some schools have provided incentives such as money for vaccinations. Because of that, some parents have accused schools of bribery and say that the schools are pressuring kids to get vaccinated against their parents’ will. They say the schools are acting like the young people are the property of the state, not minors under the authority of their parents. In the Kettering, Ohio, school district, death threats were made towards the staff for this reason. They were suspected of immunizing youngsters without parental authorization, but it turned out it was not the case. Is it wrong to pressure kids to get vaccinated against their parents’ approval, even though it could save lives?

It is a very different story in California. Recently, it was mandated in the Los Angeles school district that students aged 12 and above must be vaccinated in order to attend school. This was the first time a big school district had done so. It was a bold move, but it may not be as successful in some school districts where parents are opposed to the immunization. When it comes to making that decision, every school system tries to consider a variety of factors. They must take into account the community’s health as well as the beliefs of the parents in their school district. Before making a judgment, many districts are waiting to observe how things play out in neighboring districts. People are taking notice of LA’s decision to establish a vaccine requirement, and members of the California Teachers Association are fully supportive of the mandate. Schools such as UC and Cal State already have one in place for students. It’s been successful in Los Angeles. But should all school districts in the country insist that their students 12 and up be vaccinated?

Many schools are experiencing difficulties since they were only recently allowed to open, and the pressure that comes with a contentious issue like this might force them to close again. As an easy fix, many schools, rather than mandating the vaccination, are offering incentives to students to get vaccinated.
Students in Milwaukee public schools are being paid $100 if they receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Staff who have not been immunized will be required to get vaccinated by November 1st. The school board has made it mandatory. They are willing to put their money where their mouth is. There are 31,205 kids in the district who are eligible. As a result, it may cost them three and a half million dollars to come through with that promise, and they are prepared to do it with the grants receiving from White House’s billions of dollars pandemic rescue program. Would it be easier to simply mandate the vaccine? Or to require face masks?

This is a new ordeal for some parents. Many of them are even resisting getting vaccinated themselves. Under Biden’s new order, every company with over 100 employees has to get all their workers vaccinated. Many employers are demanding that their staff be vaccinated or tested on a weekly basis, and that’s already upsetting to many people.

To some schools, it seemed less confrontational to offer lucrative incentives to young people to get vaccinated. But, to the society at large, is that the same as bribery, and does it undermine the rights of parents who have not yet decided if they want this new vaccine for their children?