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

Posted on July 15, 2021

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.