Theis bills aim to block student mask and vaccine requirements
October 27, 2021
By Jessica Mathews and Jon King / [email protected]
The Michigan Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that seeks to block requirements for children to wear face masks to school or receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The four-bill package passed in a 19-15 party line vote.
Senate Bill 600, sponsored by Brighton Township Republican Lana Theis, would prevent Michigan school districts from requiring authorized vaccines in emergencies or an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccination for students attend school or members of the public attend school board meetings.
In response, Democratic State Senator Curtis Hertel of East Lansing said the bill cast doubt on the basic medical recommendations that will help stem the pandemic. “This organization is in fact putting the citizens of Michigan at risk. Now I have watched week after week the health policy committee, the education committee transform into a place of conspiracy theories, lies and nonsense.
It would be easy to dismiss these bills as political rhetoric and nonsense, ignore it and let it go, but we’ve reached a point way beyond that, where this body is actually putting the Michigan citizens in danger. pic.twitter.com/HVBlD1MTIW
– Senator Curtis Hertel (@CurtisHertelJr) October 26, 2021
SB 601, also sponsored by Theis, would allow students to receive an exemption from wearing a face mask at school and ban schools from testing asymptomatic students for COVID-19 infection to take a school bus or enter a school building.
SB 602 would also prohibit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services from requiring students to receive a vaccine that has only been authorized for emergency use or a COVID-19 vaccination approved by the FDA, to wear a face mask, and to be tested for COVID-19 if asymptomatic to enter a school, take a bus, or participate in school activities.
SB 603 would ban local health departments from requiring students to receive a vaccine that has only been authorized for emergency use or an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccination, from wearing a face mask and be tested for COVID-19 if they are asymptomatic to enter a school, take a bus or participate in school activities. It would also prevent them from requiring people from the same group to attend school board meetings.
Simultaneously, federal regulators are considering authorization of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted on Tuesday that there is enough evidence that the vaccine is safe and effective for this age group. The FDA is not bound by the recommendation and is expected to make its own decision within days.
Senate Republicans maintain decisions should be made by single parents. Theis said in a press release that “Our children are not the subjects of His Majesty Joe Biden. Neither he, nor government bureaucrats and school administrators have the authority or the right to make decisions about children’s health care – including whether they receive a COVID-19 vaccine or wear a face mask. It only depends on their parents. Period.”
The Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators opposes the bills. Democrats argue the legislation promotes conspiracy theories and is simply a waste of time because there is no vaccine mandate for students.
Currently, face covering decisions are left to individual school districts and local health departments. There is no warrant of any kind in Livingston County, but student quarantine is in place. Districts without a mask requirement experience higher case rates according to the state health department.
Bills are now heading to the House of Representatives for consideration.