Parent files lawsuit following VBCPS student-athlete COVID-19 vaccine mandate

COVID-19 Vaccine

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach lawyer is suing in response to Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ (VBCPS) decision to require COVID-19 vaccinations, or weekly testing, for its student-athletes.

“I mean basically, what it boils down to, is protecting my children and what we believe is right,” said plaintiff Jason Swango.

“At the end of the day, I don’t believe that this man, Mr. Spence, Dr. Spence, has the authority,” he said, referring to Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence.

Swango is also the president and CEO of Firm for Men, has two children in Virginia Beach schools. He filed the complaint Tuesday on behalf of his children who he says are both high school athletes impacted by the decision.

Swango is a lawyer but is being represented by an associate lawyer at his firm, Palmer Hurst.

“The law says, what the law says,” explained Hurst. “The law does not say what you want it to say. I understand. We’ve come through a very challenging 18 months to two years over this pandemic, but that does not change what the code of Virginia says as when it comes to who has the authority to change policy, implement a particular policy, etc., etc.”

Court documents show Swango is asking for a permanent injunction to keep Spence and the VBCPS board from enforcing the current student-athlete COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandate.

The mandate was decided back in September. 10 On Your Side previously reported it would go into effect on Nov. 8 for all high school students participating in Virginia High School League (VHSL) winter activities or athletic conditioning that require a physical for participation.

School officials said testing will be provided to families at no charge. A VBCPS spokeswoman said they could not provide comment on the matter in litigation, but did provide a statement on the program.

“Our student-athlete testing program is a weekly testing protocol for keeping our student athletes safe, in school and out of quarantine. The program is similar to those in many other school divisions locally (including Chesapeake and Suffolk), across the state, and in some of the largest in the country.  Students in VBCPS who have been vaccinated, or have proof of having COVID-19 in the last 90 days, are exempt from the weekly testing program. Otherwise, as this matter is currently in litigation, School Board Legal Counsel has advised that no further comments will be made.”

Sondra Woodward | Public Relations Coordinator, Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Several other school districts have asked similar requirements for their student-athletes as well. Hurst believes similar lawsuits could start popping up.

“I think it’s very likely that that’ll happen. I think what happened locally is you know, in essence, and not even locally, but kind of nationally — parents have been put on the back burner and they’ve almost been basically threatened not to speak up,” Hurst said.

Hurst hopes people see past the polarization of the vaccination itself and focus on what he and his client believe is an overstep of power.

“This isn’t about the pros and cons of vaccination itself really. This is solely and strictly about do the individual bodies, being the school superintendent, the school board, have the authority to implement this policy as they have in our answer to that is no. If they won’t check themselves — then we’ll ask the courts to do it for us,” Hurst said.

10 On Your Side is working to learn when their first day in court will be.

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