The Vaccine Mandate Protest Behind Monday’s Increase in Unexcused Absences


Nikki Iyer

School was noticeably quieter the day of the vaccine mandate protest. The vaccine mandate, which will go into effect later in the school year, requires all eligible students to receive the vaccines. While this mandate has many exceptions, students stayed home in protest, significantly reducing attendance.

Anna Ho, Staff Writer

On Monday, October 18, thousands of parents, students, and teachers across California refused to attend school to protest Governor Gavin Newsom’s new vaccine mandate announced earlier this month. 

The vaccine mandate will require school children from grades 7-12 to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, but the mandate exempts those with opposing religious or personal beliefs from receiving the vaccine. The announcement of this mandate has nevertheless upset many Californian parents and students.

While the protest was largely anticipated, it saw relatively minimal results. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, many California school districts only saw about a 1-2% decrease in normal Monday attendance.

At SJHHS however, Monday’s absences were notable. Many students who decided to stay home are confident that their actions were effective in making their voices heard.

“I think the impact of Monday was to show that there are a lot of people who aren’t okay with the vaccine and that there are a lot of people who are going to fight back if we get a vaccine mandate,” said senior Macy Ferenstein.

The stay-at-home protest was largely organized by Moms On The Ground California, a group created in response to the COVID vaccine mandate. 

The group organized many in-person, peaceful protests across California, including at the CUSD district building in San Juan Capistrano and the Historic Town Center Park in the same city. The group also was influential in spreading awareness of the event, advertising it on their Instagram account. Those involved intended to impact the school’s funding along with spreading awareness, as decreases in student attendance can diminish the funding the school receives.

For many participants protesting in-person and at home, their actions were motivated under the pretense of defending individual rights.

“How is this not a violation of our Constitutional Rights? I said my children would not get vaccinated due to my religious views… because doesn’t the first amendment protect [our] right to religious freedom?” commented Instagram user @_calicandy under a Moms On The Ground Instagram post regarding the protests.

Some SJHHS students seem to agree. 

“I chose to stay home because I think that medical choice is a really important thing because, no matter what the reason-I think it’s something we should be able to choose,” said Ferenstein.

While the mandate accommodates both personal and religious beliefs and does not require those with opposing views to have their children inoculated, many moms found solidarity in the community that ‘Moms On the Ground’ and the protest has fostered.

“Way to go moms!! We need to stand together (not divided like they want) for the sake of our kids,” commented Instagram user @becrui under the same post.

Despite @becrui’s uniting words, the political climate surrounding Monday’s events seems to be very divisive between the different sides of the issue. 

The protest has also caused frustration from those who disagree with the movement throughout California.

“I feel like Monday’s protest was just very insensitive to those who have died of COVID and are struggling because of it- whether it be healthwise or financially.” said student Varshitha Selvarajan Uma. “Schools are a place of learning, so I feel like if you are going to learn properly you should feel safe to come to school. Vaccines are one way to help make sure people can be safe and protected around other people,” she said.

Some students were forced to stay home due to parental authority, not by their own decisions. This has caused divisions within individual households.

In the past year, COVID-19, political events, and a growing sense of division in Orange County have allowed something commonplace– a vaccine mandate– to warrant mobilization on as large a scale as the one witnessed Monday. Hopefully, in the future, opposing groups will be able to come to compromises regarding student health. 

With the polarization and the ongoing nature of this pandemic, however, events like this Monday show little sign of coming to an end.