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Kids walk out, join parents in vaccination mandates
Large crowd descends on Stanislaus County Office of Education
SCOE protestors
Mothers of Stanislaus County children showed up at the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) in downtown Modesto on Wednesday to protest Governor Gavin Newsom's mandates regarding students being vaccinated or denied a classroom education.

A number of parents throughout Ceres and Stanislaus County pulled their kids from public school on Wednesday, Oct. 5 in protest of Governor Gavin Newsom’s forthcoming mandate that children in middle school and older be vaccinated against COVID as a condition to being in the classroom.

Parents, children and community members staged a loud protest in front of the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) with placards, chants and shared conversation, calling for an end to the governor’s mandate.

Following the other first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination measures, Newsom announced the COVID-19 vaccine will be required for in-person school attendance — just like vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella and more. The requirement is expected to apply to grades 7-12 starting on July 1, 2022. However, local health jurisdictions and local education agencies are encouraged to implement requirements ahead of a statewide requirement based on their local circumstances.

Students 12 years old and up are already eligible for the Pfizer vaccine under an emergency use authorization, but it isn’t fully approved, and the FDA process takes longer for those under 16.

“Once the FDA approves the vaccination, in different cohorts starting with 12 and above, grade 7 to 12, we will begin to apply that requirement in the next term, either Jan. 1 or July 1, whichever comes sooner,” said Newsom.

“I came out to protect my kids,” said Turlock father Joey Almatran. “I came out here to let Gov. Newsom, the state of California know that public education should not be held over my children’s head that taking a vaccination is not required to go to school.”

He said the state requiring vaccinations for mumps, measles and other communicable diseases is “understandable” but said the COVID vaccines “haven’t been out long enough.”

“It’s not about being vaccinations; it’s about having the choice.”

Almatran cited the very high survivability rate of COVID and how children are affected the least.

“We have medically fragile children that do not need to be experimented on,” added his wife Kelly Torres Almatran.

Ceres Unified School District Supt. Denise Wickham said that there were about 31 more absences on Wednesday than normal.

“Hughson is really, really going to be against this big time,” said David Odom, who reported receiving a COVID shot and yet still got COVID. Odom said he is not against vaccinations but parents need to decide what’s best for their families.

Nurse Keryn Whitlow, a member of Take a Stand Stanislaus, said she’s opposed to a COVID vaccination mandate “because it’s not constitutional and it is a one-size-fits-all solution for a very dynamic situation.”

She said the state must allow people to trust their own bodies and make choices.

“I am not anti-vaccine,” said Whitlock. “I’m pro-vaccine and I think people often associate me with being an anti-vaxxer so it’s kind of disheartening. We are anti-mandates.”

Whitlow said Doctors Medical Center – where she works – has been supportive of letting employees like her keep their jobs despite not having been vaccinated.

“Unlike the other facilities in town, I believe DMC has done a really good job on this in reassuring us,” said Whitlow.

Modesto mother Fernanda Borges stood with her daughter and angrily charged that California and the nation are “already in the stages of communism, socialism, whatever you want to call it.”

“They’re brainwashing them already in kindergarten, now they want to shoot them up. They want them to be their property and we’re not going to let that happen. I will never let that happen. Enough is enough.”

She threatened to find alternatives to public education if her daughter is denied a seat in class.

“We will find another alternative. This government is corrupt. This state is beyond corrupt.”

Hughson High School student Mary Chastain held a sign reading “My body, my choice,” a saying hijacked from the pro-choice movement.

“It’s a peaceful protest,” she observed.

A classmate of hers, Ismael Peralta said he showed up in support of Constitutional freedoms and rights.

“I’m willing to give up my livelihood to not take it. If there’s a revolution, count me in.”

When asked for a comment about where County Schools Superintendent Scott Kuykendall stands on the mandate, SCOE Public Information Officer Judy Boring issued this statement: 

“The Stanislaus County Office of Education continues to follow guidance and mandates set by CDPH and the Governor’s Office. After the announcement of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on October 1, our office received many emails and phone calls from parents, teachers, and concerned community members.  The communication received is both in favor and against the mandate. There also was a peaceful protest against the mandate in front of our office. We have heard concerns from parents on the lack of legislative process, in addition to not enough research about the COVID-19 vaccine for children.

“We anticipate the COVID-19 vaccine will receive full approval for youth ages 12-15 by January 2022. Once that occurs, the COVID-19 vaccination will be added to the school vaccine requirement list effective July 1, 2022, for the 2022-23 school year. Currently, there are medical and religious exemptions under the executive mandate order.”

Kids with placards
Children were among those who staged a loud protest in front of the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) with placards and chants calling for an end to the governor’s mandate. - photo by Jeff Benziger
Protestors line H
Protestors line G Street around the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) building. - photo by Jeff Benziger