A fifth-grade teacher at Centner Academy, a private school in Miami, told 10-year-old students not to hug their parents for more than five seconds if their parents were vaccinated.
The teacher also advised the students not to get the COVID-19 vaccine when available to them. The school’s co-founder, Leila Centner, told teachers that her academy would ‘not be right’ for them if they got vaccinated against COVID-19, citing debunked claims about vaccinated people ‘negatively impacting’ unvaccinated ones.
One of the students emailed her mother from her school laptop, saying she was told to stay away from her mother.
‘Hola Mami. [The teacher] is telling us to stay away from you guys and not hug you for more than 5 seconds. She is also saying we should not get the covid vaccine,’ the student wrote in the email obtained by CBS Miami.
Her mother, who spoke anonymously to CBS Miami, was horrified to receive the message from her daughter.
‘I don’t have words to describe how my stomach dropped when I saw her email,’ the mother said.
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South Florida’s Centner Academy teaches kids from pre-school up to eighth grade. The school cites vaccine misinformation on its website and had a prominent anti-vaccine activist speak at the school earlier this year.
The school’s co-founder, Leila Centner (right, with her husband and co-founder David), sent an email to teachers telling them they would be fired if they got vaccinated against COVID-19
Centner has gained national attention recently for the Academy’s strong anti-vaccine stance.
Teachers at the Academy received an email last week from leadership warning them to not take the COVID-19 vaccine. Doing so, according to the email, would make them unwelcome in the classroom.
‘I have to draw a line in the sand today and tell you if you want to get [vaccinated], this is not going to be the right school for you,’ said the school’s co-founder, Leila Centner in a video obtained by CBS Miami.
The internal email was also sent by Leila Centner according to a report by the New York Times. It cited misinformation on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines and mentioned debunked conspiracies on vaccines potentially causing menstrual problems for women.
‘Reports have surfaced recently of non-vaccinated people being negatively impacted by interacting with people who have been vaccinated,’ Centner wrote in the letter.
The letter claims that unvaccinated women who had interacted with a vaccinated person had later reported issues with their menstrual cycles.
The claim, which has circulated on social media, has been debunked by fact checkers. Experts agree that there is no way for a vaccine to spread from a vaccinated person to an unvaccinated person.
Florida’s Covid cases have remained high since Spring Break, a trend some experts blame on its lack of mask mandate and open encouragement for college students to travel to the state
There is also no data that the COVID-19 vaccine effects menstrual cycles, although researchers at the University of Illinois are investigating whether there might be a link after thousands of women claimed their periods changed after getting the shots.
Centner’s letter laid out three scenarios for teachers going forward.
If they have already been vaccinated, they will be kept physically distanced from students. If they plan on getting the vaccine before the end of the school year then they should notify the school, and they will be distanced from students after receiving it.
Teachers can also wait until after the school year to get vaccinated if they want to remain in the classroom, Centner said.
School staff members were required to fill out forms disclosing their vaccination status last week.
Teachers who have either received the vaccine or plan to do so will not be allowed to return to the classroom until clinical trials on the vaccine are completed, though the letter did note that the school may hire someone to fill the position of a vaccinated teacher to replace them permanently.
The school’s website has a page titled ‘Our Vaccine Policy’ which links vaccines to Attention Deficit Disorder, asthma, diabetes, autism and other learning disabilities. There is no data linking any regularly scheduled vaccines or the COVID-19 vaccine to any of the listed conditions.
The page states that there are no vaccine requirements of any kind for students to attend the school.
The academy also invited Robert F Kennedy Jr, a prominent anti-vaccine activist, to speak at the school in January.
It is legal for employers to require workers to hold a certain vaccine status in order to remain employed.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in December that vaccine requirements do not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, although the federal government doe Legal experts also agree that the requirements do not violate privacy rules laid out in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The Centner Academy runs from pre-school to eighth grade. Yearly tuition costs between $15,000 to $30,000, depending on grade level.
The academy has deleted its Facebook page in the wake of the New York Times report.
Vaccines for COVID-19 are not yet available to children under the age of 16. Pfizer has requested Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to distribute the vaccine to children aged 12 to 15.
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