Alaska files court challenge to halt Head Start mandate

Alaska joined 23 other states today (December 21, 2021) in a lawsuit asking a U.S. District Court in Louisiana to block yet another federal Covid-19 vaccine mandate, this one to require Head Start workers and volunteers across the country to be vaccinated.

The lawsuit is another example of the state’s ongoing effort to protect the individual freedoms of Alaskans and preserve the state’s authority under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The Biden administration’s misguided and overreaching vaccine and mask mandate to the Head Start program poses a far greater threat to the children of families that rely on this important federal program than the virus does. We know that losing Head Start staff, curtailing essential programming and closing classrooms will hurt kids – not just today – but long into the future,” said Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy. “This nation should be prioritizing children and families, not putting parents in the untenable situation of choosing between their rights as parents and the education of their kids. This new policy will create obstacles for workers and families that need the program the most. We will continue to fight these policies with every resource we can to protect Alaskans from these unconstitutional mandates.”

The Head Start mandate is one of a series of broad and overreaching Biden Administration actions taken in recent months forcing millions of Americans to choose between submitting to an unwanted vaccine or losing their economic livelihoods. Alaska is already fighting three other mandates in federal court. Those other lawsuits challenge vaccine requirements for federal contractors, private businesses and healthcare providers.

“The federal government has again forced its way into matters delegated to the states and to the people under the 10th Amendment,” said Attorney General Treg Taylor, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the state. “Our Head Start workers and volunteers have the right to decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated, without the fear of losing their jobs or without the fear of the federal government defunding Alaska’s preschool programs.”

Alaska has 17 Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Head Start is a federally funded preschool program for children from low-income families.

The Head Start vaccine mandate would apply to more than 273,000 staff and more than 1 million volunteers serving about 864,000 children nationwide. Contractors who come into contact with or provide direct services to Head Start children or families would also be subject to the mandate.

Under the Head Start mandate, workers and volunteers would be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with very limited exceptions. There is no provision for opting out of the requirement through testing. In addition, all Head Start programs would be subject to a masking mandate for both adults and children as young as 2.

The additional, onerous masking requirement will make teachers take away important instructional time to ensure that toddlers are complying with masking rules that potentially interfere with children’s social and emotional development.

Alaska’s lawsuit maintains the vaccine and masking requirements violate the 10th Amendment and that, by attempting to institute the mandates, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has exceeded its authority under federal law.

Joining Alaska in the lawsuit are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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