MIAMI (CBSMiami) – White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the COVID-19 vaccine is designed “to keep children safe, keep parents safe, keep teachers safe.”
Psaki’s comments came in response to questions surrounding a Miami private school telling its teachers they risk getting fired if they get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The school, the Centner Academy, is run by Leila and David Centner. Leila Centner regularly posts wild conspiracy theories and false information about COVID and the vaccine. Her latest piece of misinformation claims that tens of thousands of women began menstruating because they were near someone who had been vaccinated.
In a video message to her staff last week, Leila Centner repeated these wild theories, discouraged teachers from getting the vaccine and then added that if they do get the vaccine, “I am not okay with you being at this school.”
She said she knows she can’t physically stop people from being vaccinated, adding, “I have to draw a line in the sand today and tell you if you want to get it, this is not going to be the right school for you. Especially right now when we don’t know what’s going on. I don’t want our community to be a part of this experiment.”
Psaki seemed somewhat dumbfounded by the school’s policy when she was asked about it at her daily press briefing on Tuesday.
“Obviously, our objective is continuing to convey that it’s important to abide by public health guidelines, that they’re in place for a reason, that they are not done through a political prism,” she said. “They’re done by medical experts, by health experts intended to keep children safe, keep parents safe, keep teachers safe, keep communities safe, which is why we recommend people abide by them.”
The story was also causing waves at the state Capitol, where lawmakers, just expanded the use of vouchers. State officials confirmed the Centner Academy does accept taxpayer dollars through the voucher program – money that would otherwise be used in the public school system.
“It’s absolute lunacy and it goes against everything that’s well understood and well accepted in the scientific community, said State Sen. Jason Pizzo, who represents the district where the Centner Academy has two campuses. “To go ahead and to basically threaten faculty and staff members that if they are vaccinated, or to make up some idea that there are some unnamed disease that’s transmitted that’s affecting people’s menstrual cycles and provoking and invoking miscarriages, is beyond bizarre.”
Pizzo said he is demanding the state’s Surgeon General weigh in and dispel these dangerous conspiracy theories the school is promoting. He said he has also asked the state Department of Education to examine whether the school is violating any laws or policies.
“Their official response is they’re not actually violating any policy because there’s no policy on the books,” he said.
The Centners are major Republican donors, having contributed to candidates at the national and state level, including Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The teachers at the school at not represented by a union, so they are on their own. Pizzo said their only recourse may be to school the school, especially since the school may be using their private, medical history to fire them.
“I also think it goes way, way too far on people’s personal privacy and medical information,” he said. “It’s basically saying, you know, prove to me that you haven’t been vaccinated.”