The district is considering a vaccine mandate for students that would include a controversial personal exemption in addition to the standard religious and medical exemptions.
The mandate would apply to all students taking in-person classes or utilizing on-campus resources such as tutoring or the library.
Rancho Santiago Community College District trustees could vote on the policy as early as Dec. 13, but would still need to return to the policy committee to work out the details. If approved, students would not need to be fully vaccinated until sometime in the middle of next year.
“It probably will not go into effect until maybe the first summer session which is right after graduation, but most likely the fall,” Martinez said.
RSCCD is the only community college district in the region without an approved vaccine mandate for students and would be the first in the state to offer a personal exemption for not taking the vaccine. .
A personal exemption, which was offered for faculty and staff mandates, can be obtained for any reason not covered by medical or religious exemptions.
“We don’t determine what we feel is a legitimate personal exemption and what is not a legitimate personal exemption.,” said Martinez.
Some board members voiced concerns over including a personal exemption. Trustee Zeke Hernandez questioned if a personal exemption would undermine the goal to get all eligible individuals vaccinated.
Trustee Sal Tinajero, who has been a vocal supporter of COVID-19 vaccines at past meetings, said the exemption would send a mixed message.
“The message we‘re sending out to a community is basically placating those who don’t want to get vaccinated and putting others at risk, and that’s where I draw a hard line,“ said Tinajero.
Not everyone on the board is against a personal exemption. Trustee John Hanna says that although he and his family are vaccinated, he understands others have hang-ups for a variety of reasons. He didn’t see the harm in including a personal exemption.
“There’s religious and medical exemptions… so what’s the risk with the personal that’s unique other than perhaps more [people using exemptions],” said Hanna.