Legal professional Common Jason S. Miyares of Virginia issued a authorized opinion Friday morning saying that public faculties within the state might not require college students to be vaccinated in opposition to the coronavirus as a situation of enrollment or in-person attendance.
Within the three-page opinion, Miyares says Covid-19 vaccination can’t be required as a result of the state’s Common Meeting, which controls the universities, has not enacted a statute requiring vaccination for in-person attendance. He notes that the legislature has amended different statutes to cope with the pandemic, however has not granted establishments of upper schooling the ability to require such vaccination.
The opinion is the most recent transfer by Virginia’s new Republican management to roll again Covid protocols on the state’s public faculties, lots of which require college students to be totally vaccinated in opposition to the coronavirus, and a few of which require booster photographs. On his first day in workplace, January 15, Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin signed an government directive rescinding the Covid-vaccination mandate for state workers, together with college and workers members at public faculties.
Miyares made headlines this week when he fired the lead counsels — the highest legal professionals — on the College of Virginia and George Mason College. Some critics questioned whether or not the firings had been political — Tim Heaphy, the previous counsel at UVA, had been on depart to work as the highest investigator for the U.S. Home’s inquiry into the January 6, 2021, assaults on the Capitol by supporters of President Donald J. Trump.
A alternative for Heaphy has not been introduced. Anne Gentry, an affiliate normal counsel at GMU, has been introduced because the college’s interim normal counsel.
Spokespeople at public faculties across the state mentioned they’d seen the legal professional normal’s opinion and had been reviewing it. It’s unclear how a lot of an influence the opinion can have, although, with faculties like UVA, Virginia Commonwealth College, and Virginia Tech all reporting vaccination charges of greater than 95 p.c.
Peter McDonough, vice chairman and normal counsel for the American Council on Training, mentioned an opinion by Virginia’s legal professional normal is simply that — an opinion. He mentioned that the universities’ vaccination necessities had not been challenged in courtroom, and that it appears the school leaders don’t share Miyares’s opinion.
“It looks like an unlucky political play that right now, with the opinion about Covid-vaccination necessities, is taking part in with lives,” McDonough mentioned. “From the skin, it appears to be like just like the legal professional normal is intent on limiting the power of the commonwealth’s campus leaders to train their very own sensible and knowledgeable judgment about what is correct for his or her establishments on this difficult journey that we’re nonetheless on to handle Covid and nonetheless optimize the academic atmosphere and the academic expertise.”
However he mentioned these campus leaders are caught now, given the diploma of authorized authority the Virginia legal professional normal has over the state’s public faculties and universities — an influence on full show when he fired the 2 normal counsels.
“It does appear that Virginia’s establishments of upper schooling are going to need to retreat from the ranks of roughly 40 different states’ faculties which have put in place vaccine necessities,” McDonough mentioned.
Rigidity between states and faculties over Covid protocols has come up many times over the previous 12 months, from Tennessee flip-flopping on its masks necessities to Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a Republican, banning all Covid vaccination mandates within the state, in battle with the now-abandoned mandate for federal workers.
“There’s this problem about institutional autonomy versus whether or not a higher-education establishment is just an instrumentality of the state,” McDonough mentioned.
He added that Miyares’s efforts to impose his authorized authority on Virginia’s public faculties are “fairly distinctive and considerably unsettling.”