Vaccination mandates spark controversy


Justin Goldstein/Chronicle

MASK OFF: During practices on campus over the summer, the school allowed sport teams that practiced outdoors to remove their masks, but sports that required indoor practices were heavily encouraged to continue wearing masks. Although discouraged, masks could be sometimes removed indoors during extreme activity.

Andrew Park

The school announced all athletes must be vaccinated and wear masks indoors to participate in athletic activities this school year. An all-school email sent by President Rick Commons July 30 outlines these new requirements and sparked varying reactions from coaches and athletes.

Head of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg spoke on the school’s health and safety policies. He said the mask requirement will remain in place because the school plans to continue abiding by mandates set forth by the Los Angeles County Department of Health.

“All students at the school, including all athletes, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or must get a vaccine exemption from the Community Health Office ,” Engelberg said in an email. “Masks are required to be worn indoors except during strenuous physical activity. So, outdoor practices may take place without masks, but masks should be worn indoors for athletic activity whenever possible.”

To be excused from the vaccine mandate, a student must obtain an exemption from their physician that explains the reasons they will not be receiving the vaccination. Then, the school’s Community Health Office must approve their reason for not getting vaccinated. In certain cases, students may also be excused from vaccination requirements because of religious beliefs, age-related vaccine eligibility issues or CDC time requirements that restrict them from receiving a second dose of the vaccine.

In the upcoming fall season, the football, field hockey, water polo and cross country teams are not required to wear a mask during practice and games because these sports take place outdoors. The girls volleyball team, which is the only indoor sport that occurs during the fall season, is required to wear masks unless players are performing strenuous activity.

Coach Jeremy Moore* said he disagrees with the school’s vaccination requirement protocols

“I do not think vaccinations should be mandatory in any capacity until the side effects are known and they are proven to stop the spread of [COVID-19],” Moore said. “It should be the parents forcing the vaccine, not schools. At this point I think it should be up to the parents, who allowed their kid to play the sport.”

Moore said he particularly disagrees with the indoor mask requirement.

“If the athletes were able to be tested before an indoor event, I don’t think they should have to wear a mask,” Moore said. “If everyone is fully vaccinated, then they shouldn’t be forced to wear a mask. Otherwise what was the point of the vaccine?”

Varsity swimmer Ethan Wang ’23 said vaccines shouldn’t be mandatory for all athletes, especially because not all levels of athletic competition are equal in terms of physical contact and potential exposure to COVID-19.

“I think it should depend on the sport itself and whether or not the sport has a social aspect or not,” Wang said. “Vaccines should be encouraged for everyone, but I do not think they should be required for people who are only casually into sports. However, I think they should be required for professional athletes at high-level competitions, as they are held to a higher standard, and because these competitions often take place with several people involved.”

Lacrosse midfielder Kameron Rabizadeh ’23, conversely, said he agrees with the school’s vaccine mandate. He said other schools should follow the same protective protocols by requiring their athletes to provide proof of vaccination before participating in athletic competition.

“It would be unfair for our athletes to be forced to miss practices to get the vaccine if other teams and schools don’t require vaccinations,” Rabizadeh said. “Other schools need to agree with [the school] about the rules for athletics, and all of them need to enforce the same rules to keep us all safe and healthy.”

Rabizadeh said he is not concerned about the vaccine’s side effects that could prevent them from playing in practice or games.

I think it’s fair to require all athletes to be fully vaccinated before allowing them to play since everyone has the chance to get vaccinated before their season starts,” Rabizadeh said. “Since side effects typically only last for a few days, they can skip a couple days of practice if necessary.

*names have been changed