Kemp: Decatur schools vaccine mandate ‘clearly violates’ executive order

City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Dr. Maggie Fehrman talks about requiring staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 during a board meeting Tuesday evening, Sept. 14, 2021. (Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

Combined ShapeCaption
City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Dr. Maggie Fehrman talks about requiring staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 during a board meeting Tuesday evening, Sept. 14, 2021. (Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

Gov. Brian Kemp denounced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate being implemented by the public school system in the city of Decatur, saying it violates rules he’s issued for the state.

“This clearly violates my executive order banning vaccine mandates by public entities,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday.

The governor did not indicate whether he was planning any actions against the 5,800-student system near Atlanta.

Kemp was responding to an announcement by Decatur Superintendent Maggie Fehrman on Tuesday that teachers and other employees have to get vaccinated as a condition of employment, or else secure an exemption and submit to daily testing for COVID-19.

Employees have until the end of October to get vaccinated.

ExploreCity Schools of Decatur mandates COVID vaccines for staff

The City Schools of Decatur is probably the first of Georgia’s 180 school districts to implement such an employee vaccine mandate; a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Education said the agency was unaware of any other district with one.

Decatur is also considering a mandate for students, but Fehrman offered no timeline for that when discussing the mandates at a school board meeting Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Kemp referenced a May 25 executive order by the governor that prohibits “a state agency, provider of state services, or state property” from implementing a “Vaccine Passport Program.” The order also prohibits requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the premises of or conduct business with a state agency, receive state services, enter state property, work for the state or “enjoy any other rights or privileges” from the state.

In Georgia, the Department of Public Health determines which vaccines are required for school attendance. A DPH spokeswoman said Wednesday that the agency “cannot say with any certainty” whether Decatur is the first Georgia school system mandating staff vaccinations against the coronavirus.