Parents urge Jeff Davis School Board to oppose any vaccine mandate

Published 9:21 pm Thursday, September 16, 2021

JENNINGS — Parents are still raising concerns with the Jeff Davis Parish School Board over mask mandates for students and the potential of a vaccine mandate for eligible students in the future.

At a School Board meeting Thursday, the public continued to urge board members to change their mind about mask mandates and urged the board to oppose any future mandates requiring vaccines for faculty, staff and students.

“We know your status on masks, as far as if you are going to do something about it, and the answer is no,” Summer Lejeuene said. “But I want to know if anyone would be brave enough to say what they would do if they were to mandate vaccines for teachers, faculty, staff and students.”

Lejeune, who pulled her two children out of public schools because of the mask mandate, is concerned about the potential for a statewide vaccine mandate to include school employees and eligible students. Employees and students should not be forced to be vaccinated if they want to attend school.

“When that mandate comes down, will you be for your people?” Lejeune asked. “Will you stand up and say enough is enough?”

“I know some of you are already vaccinated, and that’s OK if you want to be vaccinated,” Lejeune continued. “That’s your choice, but I want to know how you feel about making someone be vaccinated. Are you OK with that being thrust upon someone?”

Board member Greg Bordelon, who said he is not vaccinated and does not plan to be vaccinated, is against any vaccine mandates.

“It should be the parents’ choice,” Bordelon said.

Board members Terry Leger, who is a principal in Calcasieu Parish, and Paul Trahan also voiced their opposition to a vaccine mandate saying it should be a personal choice.

“Right now there is a law in Louisiana that parents have the choice whether their children are vaccinated or not, so they would have to repeal that law,” board member Donald Dees said.

Board member Jimmy Segura said he is not for a vaccine mandate, but would support any government mandate.

“If there is a vaccine mandate, I believe the board just like the mask mandate, if we are legally required to do it by law, I will go along with the legal requirement,” Segura said.

Rene Freeland accused the board of not taking a stand against the mandates for fear of losing $17 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. The funds are being awarded to schools to help alleviate costs associated with the pandemic.

“I can only assume your unwillingness to stand against the overreaching mandates of the governor stems from the money that our parish is receiving,” Freeland said. “It is an incentive and in order to receive that money you have to follow certain guidelines.”

Concerned parent David Bulla said parents are against the masks, vaccines and mandatory testing.

He said Louisiana law allows unvaccinated students to attend public schools, but voiced concern for employees

“Are you going to fire someone for exercising their right to make their own medical choices with informed consent,” Bulla said.

“We should not be looked upon as evil or a threat to others just because we want to stay the way God created us,” Bulla continued.  “Our bodies are no one’s properties but our own and God’s.”

“We are faced with something right now that nobody has the answers but we have to stand for what is in our hearts and what we believe in,” Bulla said. “Everyone of y’all have to stand up for what you believe in. If you believe in the mask, then stand up for it. If you don’t, stand for it. If you believe in the vaccine, stand for it. If you don’t, stand for it. That’s why we have a board here of different people, hopefully a vast variety of people with different opinions so we can have people who want the vaccine and people who do and we can come together to figure out a way to work together and not be one sided.”

Teacher Zachary Lejeune questioned the legality of the board in enforcing such mandates.

“You as a board do not possess the power to enforce a law,” Lejeune said. “The mandated masking of our children and soon to be mandated vaccinating of staff and some selected groups of students is unconstitutional.  It is not your right, it is our rights as parents, to make sure our kids are taken care of and kept safe. It’s not your right, our governor’s right, nor the president’s right so quit tipping the balance and quit honoring the unconstitutional actions of our state government.”

Parent Jacquie Bulla also questioned the accessibility of school board members.

She and other concerned parents have had a hard time getting school board members to respond to phone calls and emails. She requested the board put a policy in place requiring board members to regularly check and respond to emails and to be accessible.

“Some members told me they found their emails in their spam and junk folders, one told me he currently didn’t even have access to emails or computer and a few gave me their personal emails saying hey didn’t usually use or check their school board accounts,” Bulla said

She said she is still waiting to hear from three school board members who have not responded to voicemail, texts and emails since the last board meetings.

“Overall I think there is a significant problem with accessibility to this board as I have heard others complain of unresponsiveness as well,” she said.”If the system or technology is an issue, then it needs to be fixed also.”

Bulla also asked the board for written denials on mask exemptions.

“I and everyone else that turned in any kind of exemption – religious, medical or philosophical and were still forced to either mask our child or withdraw them from school or entitled to a record of it being ignored or rejected,” she said.