Governor DeWine Signs H.B. 244 Prohibiting COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates and Discrimination Based on Vaccination Status in Public School Districts

On July 14, 2021, Governor Mike DeWine signed Ohio House Bill 244 into law. The bill creates a new section of the Ohio Revised Code, Section 3792.04, which prohibits public school districts from requiring an individual to receive a vaccine for which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) has not granted full approval. The law also prohibits public school districts from discriminating against an individual who has not received a vaccine for which the FDA has not granted full approval. This includes, “by requiring the individual to engage in or refrain from engaging in activities or precautions that differ from the activities or precautions of an individual who has received such a vaccine” (emphasis added).
Presently, the FDA authorizes the use of the major COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) under an emergency use authorization – it has not yet granted full approval. While the FDA has not indicated a timeline for full approval, White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has expressed confidence in at least one of the vaccines receiving full approval by the end of the year. Earlier this week, Dr. Fauci remarked in an interview, “[t]he efficacy or the effectiveness in the real world is unquestioned, so we’re going to get a full approval, [t]he question is, it’s just going to take a little bit more time.”
The provisions of House Bill 244 do not go into effect until October 13, 2021. However, unless and until the FDA issues full approval for the COVID-19 vaccines, public school districts must be mindful of the new restrictions. Practically, this means a district’s COVID-19 policies and procedures, including any masking or social distancing requirements, must apply uniformly to all students, staff and visitors, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
In addition, the new law requires public school districts to permit children of military families to participate in certain technology-based educational opportunities when relocating into or out of the district due to the family receiving permanent change in station orders. Districts must permit such children to apply for enrollment in the same manner as resident students, regardless of if the child resides in the district.
This communication is intended as general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If legal advice is required, please contact any of our attorneys at (614) 222-8686, or via email.

New CDC Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Schools

On July 9th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidance related to the prevention of COVID-19 in schools. The updated Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Kindergarten (K)-12 Schools outlines strategies for K-12 schools to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and maintain safe operations.
In its updated guidance, the CDC emphasizes the benefits of in-person learning for students and notes that schools should prioritize the safe return to in-person learning in the fall. The new CDC guidance:
  • Outlines a number of ways schools can promote vaccines among teachers, staff, families and eligible students.
  • Recommends masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated and notes that consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Provides that masks need not be worn outdoors; however, people who are not vaccinated should wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk and notes that when it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of 3 feet, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies.
The CDC emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies to protect people who are not fully vaccinated and the need for localities to monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies. Screening testing, improving ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine and cleaning and disinfection are noted as important prevention strategies for in-person learning in schools.
The CDC advises that its guidance is meant to supplement—not replace—any federal, state, local, territorial or tribal health and safety laws, rules and regulations with which schools must comply and that the adoption and implementation of its guidance should be done in collaboration with regulatory agencies and state, local, territorial and tribal public health departments, and in compliance with state and local policies and practices.
This communication is intended as general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If legal advice is required, please contact any of our attorneys at (614) 222-8686, or via email.