NEW YORK (PIX11) — Dozens of New York City public school teachers were accused by the Department of Education of providing fake COVID vaccination cards, according to the United Federation of Teachers union. They allegedly submitted the forgeries to keep their jobs.
A UFT spokesperson said the allegations were leveled against about 70 of its members, including tenured teachers and staff with contractual protections. The accused were told they would be placed on unpaid leave for submitting fake COVID vaccine cards when the agency mandated them to return to work, according to the union.
Public school teachers were required to get vaccinated against COVID before the start of the school year in September. Despite multiple attempts to overturn the mandate in court, anyone who refused to comply and did not get approved for an exemption was fired. The DOE notified the teachers around Tuesday they would be placed on unpaid leave with benefits beginning Monday, per the union.
The Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District and law enforcement agencies will investigate the allegations, according to the DOE. “Fraudulent vaccination cards are not only illegal, they also undermine the best line of protection our schools have against COVID-19—universal adult vaccination. We immediately moved to put these employees—fewer than 100—on leave without pay,” a DOE spokesperson told NEWS10’s sister station in New York on Friday.
However, the UFT said the allegations are “unproven” and accused the DOE of stripping its members of compulsory due process procedures. In a letter to the DOE, the UFT said some of the accused emailed the agency to inform them they sent the notice in error, but none of them had not received a response from the city as of Thursday. “It is wholly improper for the DOE to unilaterally remove UFT members from the payroll based on mere conjecture that vaccination documentation is fraudulent,” the letter stated.
The controversy comes amid another spike in COVID cases around the five boroughs. Questions have been raised over whether students could have been exposed to the virus by unvaccinated teachers. Mayor Eric Adams has been very vocal about the vaccine mandate for city workers.
The UFT demanded the DOE immediately rescind the notices by the end of the day Friday so the affected union members will remain on the payroll come Monday. The union said it’s prepared to initiate litigation to challenge the DOE’s actions if necessary.